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Full text of "An exquisite fool; a novel"

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AN EXQUISITE FOOL 



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NEW YORK 
HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHEI^S .. 

1892 ^ * ■ 



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Copyright, 1892, by Hakper & Brothers. 



AU rights reserved. 



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AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 



X 



CHAPTER I. 

One winter evening, George Lidderdale, returning 

from a house where he had been dining, drew from an 

old cabinet a bundle of letters that had been lying 

there untouched for many years. The memory of 

them had been revived by his encounter that same 

evening with a still young and charming woman, whom 

he had not before seen since she was a girl. They had 

met as people meet in a London drawing-room. Such 

emotion as each may have felt — and the moment, for 

various reasons, had been an emotional one to both — 

was passed over with a friendly pressure of the hand. 

He had inquired after her husband and children, and 

she had asked him, in return, how he liked London 

after all these years that he had been living abroad. 

They had told each other that so long a time must not 

elapse before they met again ; she was just leaving 

town, she said, but he must very soon come down and 

visit them at their place in Devonshire ; and so they 

had parted. But the sight of her had recalled some 

memories which, though they were buried now under 

the various interests of fifteen intervening years, were 

among the most vivid of his life. More than that ; it 

recalled to him a possibility that he bad thrust aside. 
1 



2 AN BXQUI3ITS FOOL. 

He bad sometimes wondered since whether he had 
acted wisely. He spent a moment in wondering again 
to-night ; till, looking round on his commodious bach- 
elor apartment fitted to satisfy his own taste, to meet 
his own idiosyncrasy, he assured himself that his wis- 
dom had been unimpeachable. His present life, with 
all its drawbacks, suited him as none other could have 
done ; the thought that that charming face and smile 
might perhaps have been there opposite to him, that a 
clatter of childish voices might have been awake and 
alert to greet him in the morning, stirred him to some 
regret, perhaps, some sense of loss, but to no enthusi- 
asm of desire. Childish voices were delightful, but 
when they belonged to one's self they meant so much 
— too much. He turned again to liis bundle of letters. 
They had no bearing, except indirectly, on that lost 
possibility he had contemplated again just now. They 
were from a very different person — one who hardly 
for a moment, even, had touched the sentimental side 
of his nature, and who, in any case, had been a mar- 
ried woman. The letters, which all dated from fifteen 
to twenty years back, were signed Helen *Bromley 
(that other friend whom he had met to-night was 
named Euphemia). They were for the most part very 
long, and written in a singularly clear and beautiful 
hand on fine woven paper, stamped with a gold mono- 
gram. Lidderdale glanced, over their contents; pres- 
ently he became absorbed in reading them. They 
were brilliant, clever, entertaining, filled with acute 
observation of events and books and people; they con- 
tained hardly anything personal beyond references to 
his own work (he had been a writer in those days). 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 8 

which were frequent enoagh ; and these, though sym- 
pathetic and clear-judging, were impersonal also, in a 
sense; any touch of warmer, of more intimate, feeling 
was always egotistic ; he noted that, even now. He 
had noted it more at the time in which the correspond- 
ence took place. Even when he wrote most frequent- 
ly — and he had written immensely to Mrs. Bromley at 
one time, confiding to her most of his literary schemes 
and work — he had the greatest confidence in the deli- 
cacy and justice of her literary judgments — he had 
measured her with much of the critical indifference he 
was apt to bring to the contemplation of his fellow- 
creatures; reading through her lettere to-night, he felt 
more tenderly towards her now than he had often done 
then. A mist gathered before his eyes. After all, 
what a woman she had been ! — brilliant, beautiful, ac- 
complished, with an insatiable thirst for her own ideal 
— the impossible — in life. He recalled her as she wm 
when he had known her best, at six or eight-and-thlP- 
ty, a tall and slender creature, looking hardly older 
than her daughter, Euphemia. He remembered her 
perfect figure, the admirable set and poise of her head, 
the thick, auburn-brown hair that sprang and waved 
from the roots after a fashion no art could rival ; the 
strange, profound, wide-open gray eyes, opening wide 
under her delicate brows with an expression half-ques- 
tioning, half-mocking, that seemed to search the dis- 
tance, and ask, What surprise, sad or joyous, has life 
still in reserve for me? He remembered the slightly 
ironical, discontented lift of her lip ; she was never 
contented, never ; she often said so. Life in tlie ab- 
stract was magnificent, but one never began to touch 



• * 



4 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

it — that was her creed ; to feel it in palpable contact, 
as it were, was her eternal, her insatiable desire. He 
remembered, too, that, grande dame as she was to 
her finger-tips, there was yet a touch of Bohemianism 
in her nature ; that when, on a driving tour he had 
taken with herself and her husband, they had once 
been compelled to pass the night at a way-side inn, she 
had found a genuine entertainment in the wretched 
lodging and the wretched fare, in the mingled fumes 
of beer and tobacco, in the spectacle of her dressing- 
bag with its twenty silver-topped bottles reposing on 
a rush-seated chair ; she had not been far from pro- 
posing that they should all go together and drink at 
the bar. Yes, she had been a strange, brilliant, com- 
plex being; the memory of her grew vivid as Lidder- 
dale looked through the letters set aside and untouched 
.for so many years. The last in the packet was a mere 
note preserved among the others. It was dated from 
BNen-Baden, on an August day fifteen years back. 

" My husband has benefited, on the whole, we think, 
by the Homburg waters," it ran, " and now we are here 
for a month or six weeks before returning to England. 
Euphemia sketches in the forest, I have my piano ; 
we have made ourselves at home. It would be charm- 
ing if you could find your way to us across the Black 
Forest, with your latest manuscript in your pocket. 
Think of it ; we are settled here at the Hotel de I'Eu- 
rope.*— Helen." 

It was, in fact, during some days at Baden that that 
drama which stirred some of Lidderdale's most poig- 
nant memories had been played out. He had not been 
the principal actor in it ; many of the details, even, he 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 5 

had never known. But the end — the end ! It gave 
him a hideoas pang even now to think of it. Had he 
acted wisely ? Could he have prevented it ? It was a 
question he, had asked himself often enough at the 
time, though it had dropped out of sight in these last 
years. He flung himself back in his arm-chair by the 
fire and began to think. He was fifty years old now, 
a delicate-featured, fine-looking man, with a glance at 
once keen and indifferent, a short grizzling beard and 
mustache, a forehead scored with lines, and thick hair 
turning white. Fifteen years ago his hair had been 
brown and his forehead smoother; otherwise he felt 
little older now than then ; only lately he had learned 
to recognize that the ranks of the young, almost of 
the middle-aged, were closed to him forever. Other 
things had closed for him also. Fifteen or twenty 
years ago he had been a good deal occupied with the 
thought of a literary career. He had, in fact, written 
and found a publisher for a couple bf very clever 9I- 
ries ; but they had fallen perfectly flat with the pub- 
lic, and the publisher had had nothing more to say to 
him. Lidderdale continued to write^. however — es- 
says, articles, reviews, a good many slilR; poems. He 
was not at all rich, and the money tiey brought was 
an object to him in itself. Everything he wrote had 
talent; some things were remarkably clever, and his 
friends continued to prophesy great things of him. 
Lidderdale himself had less faith in his future. He 
had an extraordinary clearness of judgment in respect 
of himself as well as of other people ; he was aware 
that much that he had written at flrst was the mere 
effervescence of clever youth ; that much of what he 



6 AN £XQUISIT£ FOOL. 

had written later was the mere result of the reading 
and observation of a clever man. He felt in himself, 
that is, no perennial spring of inspiration ; he was con- 
scious of no very original or striking view of life. He 
had felt a great curiosity about it, and about other peo- 
ple's views of it, when he was young ; he had absorbed 
an enormous amount of information of every kind, and 
formed his own conclusions; but he felt no urgent 
pressure to give his philosophy, such as it was, to the 
world, however it might incidentally present itself in 
his work. In the work itself a sudden break came 
with the death of the woman to whom he had taken 
the habit of referring most of his literary efforts. He 
felt it impossible to go on writing at o^ce just as if 
nothing had happened, and a little later on a consid- 
erable fortune that he inherited made the money side 
of the question unimportant to him. He resumed 
writing, indeed, after a while, but fitfully, and less by 
^Bgrees, as other occupations pressed upon him ; final- 
ly he dropped it altogether. The effort to make him- 
self heard, in the constantly increasing clamor of con- 
temporary voices, had ceased to interest him. 

But whatever else might have changed, his opinion 
of the writer of the letters he held in his hand had, 
after all, not materially altered. He might think of 
her more tenderly now than he had always found it 
possible to do then ; but he had known her too well, 
too thoroughly, to return upon the judgment he had 
formed at the time. No, he could have prevented 
nothing I The denouement, too, horrible though it was, 
bad solved a dilemma almost incapable of solution — 
and Euphemia had known so little of the truth. That 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 7 

had always been a coDSolation to hira ; it had been a 
consolation again this evening, when he saw her smil- 
ing with the fresh and charming expression of a happy 
woman. She could hardly, even now, have had that 
free and unembarrassed smile had a full knowledge of 
the past been hers. To him that knowledge had al- 
ways been, must always be poignant. The memory of 
it pressed upon him now, as he rose and replaced the 
letters in the cabinet drawer from which he had taken 
them ; the memory, above all, of those days, dating 
some fifteen years back, when in answer to the note he 
had received he found himself arriving in Baden one 
August afternoon. 

It is the little history that follows that recurred to 
him with so much vividness, or, rather, that portion of 
it that lay within his memory. For part of it he had 
only guessed at, and part of it had never been known 
to him at all. 



CHAPTER II. 

It was about four o'clock on that afternoon in Au- 
gust that Lidderdale, who had lost no time in obeying 
his summons, walked up to one of the best appointed 
hotels in Baden. He had left his baggage at another 
inn, and, entering the hall, merely inquired whether 
Mrs. Bromley were at home. The porter, after the 
fashion of porters, could not inform him, but said he 
would ascertain ; and Lidderdale, sending up his card, 
awaited the return of his messenger below. 

Some ten or twenty minutes before his arrival, Mrs. 
Bromley, seated at an escritoire in the best private 
salon the hotel afforded, was engaged in reading a let- 
ter. It was a very ordinary hotel salon, big and bright, 
the tempered sunshine streaming through three long 
shaded windows onto a good deal of rather crude up- 
holstery and superfluous gilding; but the arrangement 
suggested that its present occupant had the art of giv- 
ing the most indifferent room an air of comfort, even 
of individuality. Twenty costly knick-knacks, such as 
some women travel about the world with, were distrib- 
uted on the inconvenient little tables ; there was a 
piano and an embroidery frame, there were books and 
magazines and flowers in abundance everywhere. The 
temporary owner of this not unattractive apartment, 
seated at her writing-table in a charming and expen- 
sive summer toilet, was considering the letter before 
her with an attention that its length — it consisted of 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 9 

• 

some twenty words only — hardly seemed to warrant. 
Two slight, almost imperceptible lines between her 
finely -drawn eyebrows deepened as she read; she 
passed her fingers over her forehead as thoagh to 
smooth them away, and resting her cheek on her hand, 
sat gazing before her with an air of singular doubt and 
irresolution. All at once, as though takiug a rapid de- 
cision, she tore the paper across and across, threw away 
the fragments, and enclosing a bill and some money 
she took from a drawer in an envelope, touched a 
small hand-bell at her side. 

" Beg Miss Euphemia to come and speak to me be- 
fore she goes out," she said to an English maid who 
entered from an adjoining room. 

The woman disappeared. Mrs. Bromley rose, took 
the envelope she had just closed in her hand, and moved 
away from the table towards the embroidery frame set 
in one of the long windows that opened to the floor, 
and overlooked the public promenade. As she crossed 
the room, she glanced with the habitual turn of the 
head of a pretty woman, at one of the numerous tall 
mirrors that reflected the chairs and tables of the gild- 
ed salon. Something in what she saw seemed to arrest 
her. She paused and stood still, gazing at herself in 
the glass, as though held by the contemplation of her 
own beauty — a beauty that at eight-and-thirty had, as 
she well knew, lost but little of its charm. Her com- 
plexion, of a perfectly pure and even delicacy, could 
still unshrinkingly confront the daylight ; her features 
were so admirably moulded that the slight hardening, 
the ineffaceable set of certain lines that succeeds the 
softness and roundness of youth, had only given her 



10 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

face a finer distinction. She had often recognized 
that ; she studied herself too closely in her mirror not 
to note every change of line and expression ; but she 
was not thinking of that now. She was simply think- 
ing that nearly forty years of her life were gone, only 
to leave her where she stood to-day. "An ugly woman 
would as well have served such ends as these," she mur- 
mured ; and like lightning passed through her mind 
all the events of her life since she was sixteen. " If 
that young girl fulfils her promise," she remembered 
overhearing some one say, " she may live to be a second 
Helen, and fire another Troy." The trivial words had 
pleased her then ; she had read in them a brilliant 
prophecy, the finest compliment; she had read in them 
since a mere mocking comment on her destiny. What 
Troy had she ever fired ? What world had she con- 
quered that she did not despise ? A sombre look came 
into her eyes; the lines on her forehead deepened again. 

The sound of a hand laid on the lock outside startled 
her. She moved away quickly, and seating herself at 
her work-frame, began to sort out some embroidery 
silks. A door opened at the farther end of the room, 
and a young girl dressed in white appeared, holding a 
sketch-book tucked under one arm, and engaged in 
pulling on a long, Joose pair of tan gloves. She ad- 
vanced a few steps into the room, and, pausing, stood 
looking about her for a moment. 

" I thought," she said, " I had left my hat here — 
yes, there it is." 

She took a large white muslin hat from a sofa where 
it was lying, and went with it in her hand up to the 
window by which Mrs. Bromley was seated. 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. U 

'^ Please to pat it on for me, mamma," she said, with 
a certain playful intention, " or you will certainly tell 
me it is crooked." 

She put it on herself, however, and dropping on her 
knees beside her mother, looked at her, smiling. Mrs. 
Bromley laid down her embroidery silks and, turning, 
gave tlie hat a straightening pull. 

" There are plenty of looking-glasses in the room, 
my dear child," she said. " Why don't you see for 
yourself that your hat is straight ?" 

"I prefer your eyes, mamma," said the girl, in the 
same tone as before, and still pulling at her long 
gloves. 

Enphemia Craven (she was Mrs. Bromley's daughter 
by a first marriage) was a charming young girl, hardly 
so tall as her mother, but with the same slender grace 
and distinction of form and movement. In face she 
resembled her much less; her complexion, indeed, was 
exquisite in its perfect smoothness and fairness, and 
her abundant hair, several shades lighter than her 
mother's, sprang from the roots with the same admi- 
rable movement ; but her face was round, and there was 
a certain bluntness in the outline of her nose and chin. 
It had been said of her always that she would never be 
so beautiful as her mother; but there were always 
people who found in her face an attraction superior to 
any that could be discovered in Helen's. Her expres- 
sion was serious, too serious, perhaps, for so young a 
girl ; but if so, it was atoned for by the sweet candor 
of her charming eyes, and the enchanting play of her 
lips when she spoke and smiled. She had a ready and 
beautiful blush, and her color rose a little now, as her 



in AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

mother took the sketch-book she held from under her 
arm. 

"You are going into the forest to sketch, Euphe- 
mia?" she said. "Let me see what you did yester- 
day.*' 

She began turning over the leaves, holding the book 
this way and that to study the sketches, Euphemia 
looking on the while. 

" I'm afraid they are bad— are they very bad ?" she 
said, in a moment. 

"No, they are not so bad," said her mother, contem- 
plating the drawings with a criticism quite untempered 
by motherly partiality. "You take pains with your 
work, one can see that; and perhaps more freedom 
may come in time." 

She closed and returned the book to Euphemia, who 
had finished buttoning her gloves, and took it, laugh- 
ing a little and blushing again. 

" I take pains — that means that they are bad !" she 
said, with some cleverness. " But I don't so much 
mind," she immediately added, "for if I can't draw the 
forest, I have at least the pleasure of sitting there and 
looking at it. I wish you would come, too, mamma. 
Do come !" 

" Now ? This afternoon ? No, I don't think I can 
come to-day," said Mrs. Bromley, with some air of con- 
sidering the point. " For one thing, it is just possible 
that Mr. Lyderdale may call." 

Euphemia, who was about to rise, paused in the act, 
and turned her eyes on her mother. 

"I didn't know Mr. Lidderdale was in Baden," she 
said, her color rising again. 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 18 

Helen glanced at her danghter, then occupied her- 
self in polling out the tncker round the girl's slender 
throat. " I don't know it, either," she answered ; " but 
he is travelling in Oermany, and I think it not im- 
probable, from a note I have received from him, that 
he may be in Baden one day this week. Your lace has 
come unsewn, Euphemia ; how careless of Millar not 
to attend to it, and careless of you, too !" giving the 
girl a tap on the cheek. " Wait a moment, and I will 
set it right for ^ou." 

She applied a needle arid thread with quick, deft fin- 
gers. Euphemia arrested and kissed them, as Mrs. 
Bromley, setting the last stitch, broke off the thread ; 
then threw both arms round her mother's neck in a 
sudden embrace. 

"I love you, I love you," she murmured; "no one 
ever had such a mother as mine — never." 

Mrs. Bromley submitted to this demonstration of 
affection without especially returning it. She waited 
quietly, in fact, until it was over; then lifting the girl's 
chin and looking at her, smiling with her wide-open, 
half-mocking eyes, she kissed her forehead and began 
straightening the brim of her hat again. 

" There," she said, " you had better go now, or you 
will lose all your afternoon. Or stay — " 

" Yes, mamma," said Euphemia, as her mother 
paused. "Millar told me you wanted to speak to me." 

"Yes; I want you, my dear, to pay this bill at 
Reichmann's, the photographer; it is for the photo- 
graphs I bought there a day or two ago, and yon can, 
if you please, order a second copy of the one you liked 
best, that of the old castle. You had better go into 



14 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

the shop yourself, Euphemia ; the man understands no 
English, and Millar is apt to make mistakes as soon as 
there is any question of speaking German. It will 
take you only a few steps out of your way." 

Mrs. Bromley, as she spoke, took from a small table 
at her side the envelope in which, a few minutes pre^ 
viously, she had enclosed the bill ; but she did not im- 
mediately give it to her daughter ; she sat holding it in 
her hand, looking down at it with the same singular air of 
doubt and indecision that had characterized her before. 

"No," she said at last, suddenly, " it is no matter for 
to-day. You had better go straight with Millar to tlie 
forest, Euphemia ; and take a carriage from the near- 
est stand to the end of the Lichtenthaler Allee. I 
don't care that you should walk much about the town 
here ; I prefer to know that you are sketching quietly 
in the forest. This will do another time." 

" Oh, I like the forest best, too ; I don't care about 
the town," said the girl, smiling, as she left the room. 
A minute later her mother, looking from the window, 
saw her issue from the hotel, cross the sunshine and 
shade of the promenade with the meagre, black-dressed, 
self-respecting lady's-maid at her side, and enter one 
of the little open carriages that stood about for hire. 
Mrs. Bromley watched the carriage roll away and dis- 
appear down the long leafy avenues; then looking 
down again at the envelope she still held in her hand, 
she contemplated it for a while without moving. With 
a gesture of impatience, she tossed it at last onto the 
table at her side, and turned again to her embroidery 
frame. When Lidderdale was announced some five 
minutes later he found her busily plying her needle. 



CHAPTER III. 

She held out her left hand to him with a smile, by 
way of greeting; and Lidderdale, drawing a chair 
forward, seated himself opposite to her. He was struck 
afresh (but that always happened to him after he had 
been absent from her for any time) by her great beauty. 
As she sat there before her embroidery frame, with 
the slight half-ironical, half-discontented lift of lip and 
eyebrow habitual with her, the thick waves of her 
brown hair arranged closely about her head, the admi- 
rable lines of her slender figure moulding the thin fab- 
ric and laces of her summer dress, she had the air of a 
princess, as one says. Lidderdale also noticed, being a 
man who took note of such things, that she was dressed 
to perfection. She had the art of doing that, he 
knew ; and if, as was occasionally said, she looked al- 
most as young as her daughter, she never committed 
the error of challenging that comparison. But his ad- 
miration and his friendship for her, which were both 
very sincere, were — it has been intimated before — 
almost without any admixture of tenderness. He had, 
in a sense, missed her; that he had often felt. At the 
time he first made her acquaintance he was extremely 
in love with a young girl, who had soon afterwards 
married some one else and gone to India ; she died 
there the following year; and that chapter of his life, 
a very tragic one to him, had, except in respect of cer- 
tain inextinguishable memories, been finally closed. It 



16 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

was after this that the close and in one sense intimate 
correspondence between himself and Mrs. Bromley be- 
gan ; bat intimate though it had been in the discus- 
sion of opinions, of books, of art, of a hundred subjects 
that they had in common, there had never been the 
least touch of sentiment in it; he had always, so to 
speak, remained apart and indifferent. Sometimes he 
had regretted that a little. It was not that he had the 
slightest desire to be in love with, or to make love to 
another man's wife; but simply that if a beautiful 
and accomplished woman like Helen Bromley could 
inspire him with no warmer feeling than a somewhat 
critical admiration and friendship, it must be because 
something was lacking in his nature or hers; there 
were many shades and degrees between that and being 
in love. On the whole he believed it to be in both, 
but chiefly in hers. Early in their acquaintance he 
had divined that she was at once passionate and cold ; 
he suspected in her something of hardness. Of the 
passion he had had no proof; but he could imagine 
that love would always be with her a passionate ego- 
tism, an insatiable demand, passing through reaction 
into coldness. To her husband, at any rate (if, indeed, 
she had ever cared for him), he had seen her hard as 
adamant ; and to her daughter she seldom exhibited 
more than a somewhat obligatory aflFection ; he never 
felt that she really loved Euphemia. That was an 
idea, he was sure, that had never occurred to Euphe- 
mia herself, who adored her mother; but it was al- 
ways very present to Lidde^dale, and if Euphemia 
never felt injured, it yet hurt him somewhat as an in- 
jury to Euphemia. Her behavior to himself had varied 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 17 

occasionallj in the course of their long acquaintance. 
She liked him extremely, he was aware. She made no 
secret of her preference for men over women, and he 
was one of the cleverest men she knew — quite the 
cleverest man with whom she had occasion to come 
frequently in contact. Lidderdale had a married sis- 
ter, whose husband's estate in the West of England 
almost joined that of Mr. Bromley ; and he not infre- 
quently paid her a long visit, during which he had oc- 
casion to see a good deal of Helen. In a way, as he 
knew, he had educated her. She led, for the greater 
part of the year, a very retired, almost remote, life at 
Bromley Court ; he was her connecting link, and no 
unimportant one, with the outer world. She was a 
great reader, and read with admirable intelligence and 
judgment ; and he was careful to supply her with every 
description of book, journal, and review that could 
possibly interest and entertain her. This made a com- 
mon ground on which they could always meet. Occa- 
sionally, indeed, he had suspected her of coquetry ; 
now and then he discovered her in caprice ; but, on the 
whole, she took him seriously and sedately, in a sort of 
Darby and Joan friendship, in which the preliminaries, 
the uncertainties, the reticences of early acquaintance 
had been abandoned almost before they had been rec- 
ognized. 

As a fact, they had, in one sense, never been aban- 
doned ; their talk, even as concerned their present in- 
terests, was only sometimes confidential ; they knew 
hardly anything of each other's past. Lidderdale, be- 
yond the most superficial facts, had never acquainted 
her with his ; Helen very rarely alluded to hers, and 

9 



18 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

then only to the days of her early girlhood. Some- 
thing of her history, indeed, he knew. He knew that 
her mother had been a penniless young Frenchwoman, 
whose romantic origin, as the descendant of a noble 
but ruined French emigre^ had not endeared her in 
the least to the family of her husband, an English 
clergyman of good birth, who, having given ineradi- 
cable offence by his marriage with a Catholic, was 
passed over when the presentation to the family liv- 
ing fell in, to remain a poverty-stricken curate to the 
end of his days. He also knew, for that was the pe- 
riod of her life on which Helen dwelt most compla- 
cently, that she had been chiefly brought up in Paris ; 
her parents, conscious of their own inability to give 
their daughter a liberal education, having resigned 
her from the age of ten, with the exception of a couple 
of summer months in each year, to the care of an aged 
great-aunt who kept a shrunken and impoverished state 
on a limited annuity and an ancient title in the Fau- 
bourg Saint- Germain. To live with this venerable 
relative, Helen had sometimes declared, was a liberal 
education in itself. She had the traditions both of a 
finer, if cruder, world, than the present day can show, 
and of a more exquisite culture. She was at immense 
pains to educate her great-niece in both ; and when 
she died, and Helen at seventeen returned to her own 
home, to a poverty undraped by either tradition or 
reality, she felt as if beggared of some of the finest 
opportunities life can offer. Some consolation she 
mi^ht have found in her father, the only being of 
whom she ever spoke to Lidderdale in accents that 
had to his ear the ring of pure affection. Her mother, 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 19 

whom she rarely mentioned, and then with indiffer- 
ence, had died the year previous to her return ; Lidder- 
dale gathered that the poor woman had pined away in 
discontent, in an egotism too pronounced not to clash 
with that of her daughter. But her father, as Helen 
liked to describe him, had been the truest gentleman, 
the most charming character, sweet-tempered and high- 
minded in the midst of his poverty, devoted to his 
clerical duties, and yet a scholar and a reader with a 
distinguished, though limited, literary talent. Her 
capacity for appreciating a nature in various respects 
80 unlike her own^-she told him once that it was her 
daughter Euphemia who in character, though not in 
intellect, resembled her father — was one of the things 
that Lidderdale liked best in Helen ; and he some- 
times speculated what effect might have been pro- 
duced upon herself could she have lived for a time 
under its immediate influence. Probably, he instantly 
reflected, very little, but in any case the experiment 
could not be tried. Her father had lived a bare three 
months after his daughter's return to him from Paris; 
and almost immediately afterwards, Lidderdale had 
reason to believe, Helen had married. 

Here her confidences always stopped abruptly. He 
knew, of course, that she had been married twice, since 
Euphemia was not Squire Bromley's daughter ; and he 
had formed various theories about these marriages, 
concerning which Mrs. Bromley never said a word. 
He conjectured that she might in the first instance 
have married very young, and for love; and still 
yonntr — she had been Mr. Bromley's wife for some 
yeai*s when he first met her — have married again for 



^ AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

money; it lay within his conception of her nature 
that she should do both these things ; but it was the 
merest conjecture he had to go upon. Sometimes, in 
looking at her, he felt moved to an undefined pity ; 
yes, beautiful, accomplished, wealthy as she was, suc- 
cessful as her life in many ways seemed to be, he felt 
that he pitied her. It was the same sort of sentiment, 
though differing widely in intensity, it need not be 
said — he knew so much less about it — that Helen en- 
tertained towards herself; a less brilliant woman might 
have sufliced for such a lot as hers. She ought to have 
been a princess in fact, he sometimes said to himself, 
or an ambassadress shining at some splendid court, 
with a no less spendid court of her own. That she 
should spend an occasional two months in London, 
and the rest of the year in a rather remote west coun- 
try district, had always struck him as a waste of ad- 
mirable material, in a world where admirable mate- 
rial is not too common, of putting a porcelain vase of 
the rarest quality to somewhat vulgar uses. It mat- 
tered the less, however, he presently decided, that the 
most brilliant position in Europe would not have sat- 
isfied her, since a huge discontent, he had discovered 
early in their acquaintance, springing partly, perhaps, 
from a touch of genius, but largely from a devouring 
egotism, lay at the foundation of her nature. She had 
told him herself one day — though she rarely touched 
on the events of her life, she was not averse to talking 
to him of her own characteristics, which he, as a dis- 
interested student of human nature, found interesting, 
she perceived — she had told him that she resembled 
one of George Sand's heroines, who always wanted 



▲K EXQUISITE FOOL. » 

more of everything — more light, more music, more 
sound, more beauty. 

"In fact, you are like a child crying for the moon," 
he answered, smiling. 

" No — for the sun," she replied in a moment, very 
seriously ; and, on the whole, he believed her. Allow- 
ing always for a slight touch of pose in her nature, he 
believed her to be sincere enough in what she said 
about herself; he only differed from her in finding 
this attribute of discontent less divine than she did. 
She had a right to make large claims, he conceded, a 
larger right, perhaps, than many people; but given 
the general conditions of human life, he was disin- 
clined to allow that she had a right to the sun any 
more than — himself, for instance. Still, as she had 
this craving after an unattainable ideal, to give it its 
best expression, he wondered a little sometimes that 
she made no strenuous effort after it, that she acqui- 
esced so completely in the life her husband made for 
her. It was an anomaly that he puzzled over at least 
fifty times. It was not out of affection to her hus- 
band; that was quite certain. Lidderdale himself 
had a considerable liking for Squire Bromley, a quiet, 
intelligent man, nearer sixty than fifty, holding old- 
fashioned opinions, taking a moderate interest in 
county business, and in the superintendence of his 
estate, although an enfeebled health prevented his de- 
voting himself very actively to either, and, like Louis 
Seize, with a turn for mechanics and lock-making. He 
had also a rather dry-asdust curiosity in first editions, 
and, being a man of wealtli, had ample means for the 
satisfaction of these harmless and respectable tastes. 



22 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

He had the fancy, moreover, for petting his step- 
daughter, of whom he was extremely fond, and for 
supplying his wife, for whom he had a profound, if 
not absolutely uncheckered, admiration, with about a 
quarter of his income for pin-money. Helen, how- 
ever, never cared to conceal her chagrin that her hus- 
band was not a man of distinction, or her sense of 
contempt for his chosen pursuits. At one time (it 
was within a year or two after their marriage) she 
was exceedingly anxious that he should enter Parlia- 
ment. The squire hated a town life, and was abso- 
lutely devoid of ambition ; but he gave in finally to 
his wife's wishes, and, a vacancy occurring, consented 
to stand for his division of his native county. He 
lost his election — through his own want of zeal, Helen 
was convinced; site would not have lost it — and she 
never urged the point again. After that she let him 
alone; and the squire, who had been somewhat dis- 
turbed by her importunities, was still more disturbed 
by this severe neglect. In time, however, he came to 
acquiesce in that also, and the husband and wife, to a 
considerable extent, went their different ways. It was 
this state of affairs that struck Lidderdale as some- 
what anomalous. As Helen took her own way in 
certain directions, he couldn't understand why she 
did not allow herself more liberty in others. She 
was not a conventional woman, far from it; and com- 
ing to understand, as he did by degrees, the strained 
relations between the husband and wife, it seemed to 
him that both might be the happier for a little more 
independence of action. He hinted as much to the 
squire himself one day, when he was alluding, as he 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 28 

occasionally did, to a certain disappointment he found 
in his married life. 

^^ Your wife is a little bored, one can see that," Lid- 
derdale answered. '^ English country life is not alto- 
gether amusing, you know. Why donH you try sepa- 
ration for a little while? If your wife were to go 
abroad, for instance, for a few months, I believe she 
would come back a different creature. You don't like 
travelling, I know ; but she could take Euphemia." 

"My dear fellow," the squire answered to this bold 
proposition, "it's clear you are not a married man. I 
shouldn't like my wife to go abroad without me ; and 
I shouldn't like my house to be without a mistress 
during the few months you speak of. It wouldn't be 
respectable. Besides, I like my wife's company, and 
you're all wrong about her/ She has everything she 
can possibly desire, I've tiever refused her a thing 
she's asked for. No ; there's something else ; it's not 
that." 

To Lidderdale it seemed quite clear that it was that ; 
that Helen was bored to death by her husband's soci- 
ety, and the friends he got about him. It is true she 
was not the first woman who had found herself in 
such a case, and that she was no worse off than a thou- 
sand other women, who, finding themselves irbeom- 
prises in their married life, get such consolation as 
they can in the consciousness of a more exalted ideal. 
Still, as he put it to himself, the thousand women 
were not his friends, and she was ; and he felt sorry 
for her. The squire's point of view, however, was un- 
assailable by an outsider; and, indeed, comprehensible 
enough. In the prim conventionalities of their county 



94 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

society, it was quite conceivable that for Mrs. Brom- 
ley to set off on a continental tour without her hus- 
band might awake an immitigable scandal. But Helen 
was not conventional — not ip his conception of her; 
he imagined that she had sufficient power, if she chose 
to exert it, to take her own way with her husband, in 
spite of his primitive, if respectable, ideas ; and there 
were moments when the narrow routine to which this 
rare and beautiful creature bound herself impressed 
him to a degree that made him wonder why on 
earth she didn't take the reins into her own hands, and 
order her own life. She had, so far as he knew her, 
every quality necessary for trampling on the English 
conventions she never affected to do otherwise than 
despise. Why the devil didn't she do it ? He hinted 
the question to her one day. She received it in si- 
lence, and in silence sat gazing before her for a while, 
with an unfathomable look in her beautiful eyes. 

"Do you know," she said, turning to him at last, 
with a smile, " I have the idea that yon are suggesting 
to me something extremely immoral. I ought to re- 
sent that, I suppose, only I have also the idea that you 
intend it, in a way, as a compliment. You are mis- 
taken about me, however; I am not the unconven- 
tional being you suppose. I am terribly afraid of 
life ; and no one who is that can afford to despise its 
conventionalities. To do what you suggest might 
cause the most terrible outcry! What would Lady 
Belton and old Mrs. Eich, for instance, say on seeing 
my husband walk in to dinner without me ? I couldn't 
afford such a scandal." 

" Ah, that is what I don't understand," murmured 



▲N EXQUISITE FOOL. i6 

Lidderdale. ^'I should have thought you wouldn't 
care." 

" No, no, you are wrong," she said, with an air of 
deliberation. She sat silent for a while, smoothing 
down the folds of her rich brocade gown with her 
slender fingers covered with rings. She was dressed 
for a dinner-party, and was talking to Lidderdale be- 
fore the hall fire at Bromley Court while waiting for 
her husband to appear; there were diamonds at her 
neck and in her thick brown hair ; Lidderdale thought 
he had never seen her look more beaut if nl. 

'^I am not independent," she said, after a moment, 
in her quick, delicately -modulated accents, "and no 
woman who is not independent can afford to disregard 
appearances. I should risk too much through even a 
slight difference with my husband. You don't see 
how ? But do you know, you are really profoundly 
immoral to-night ! Are you anxious to bring about a 
quarrel between me and the squire?" 

" Not at all. How can you suppose such a thing ?" 
said Lidderdale. " But there are moments," he went 
on, " when you seem to me half stifled by your life ; I 
should like to see what you could do elsewhere. It is 
a waste that you should be here always. From an 
economical point of view — " 

"Oh, I know your economics!" she said, smiling 
again, and interrupting him ; "yon are too economical 
by half; you want to turn your friends to profit, and 
use them up as experiments. Besides, you are mis- 
taken," she went on, more seriously. " You think I 
am indifferent to my position as the squire's wife, to 
my standing in the county, to what Lady Belton and 



26 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

Mrs. Bich and Miss Masbam think of me ? Well, jou 
are wrong; at leaet — no, in one sense you are right. 
From one point of view I don^t care that for them. 
Why should I? One cries for the sun, you know. 
Oh, I cry and I cry, though you don't see me with red 
eyes. But from another point of view, it is the best I 
can get, and I have no wish to throw it away. I am 
dining out to-night, and the people will bore me to 
extinction. The men are so dull that I yawn in their 
face, bnt then I like the privilege of being able to 
yawn in their face. As for the women, they are each 
more stupid and ill-dressed than the other. I detest 
them, and they all detest me, and I make myself per- 
fectly charming to them. All that amuses me, you 
know." 

Lidderdale was silent. 

" And then," she continued, with an air of somewhat 
cynical frankness that it occasionally pleased her to 
assume, "I have no money — of my own, I mean ; not 
a half-penny ; and life is inconceivable to me without 
money. I love luxury — not in the vulgar sense, of 
course, but as a virtue, an indispensable grace. A 
woman is no more complete without it than she would 
be without her hair and her teeth. There are plenty 
of women who have to do without it, of course ; there 
are women who have neither hair nor teeth ; but one 
hardly takes them into account. And you want me 
to break with the conventionalities of life ? No ; the 
risk is too great." 

" How you talk !" said Lidderdale ; " and I don't be- 
lieve a word you say." But he did believe it after a 
fashion. 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. d7 

^^ Ah, that is because I am too sincere," she answered, 
opening and closing her fan; "every one knows that 
is the way to get one's self discredited." She rose 
abruptly, as the squire's step was heard on the stairs 
that led down into the hall. " Believe everything I 
tell you," she said, with a sudden passionate note in 
her voice, " but that I am the most miserable, the 
most fettered, the most tortured of women ; for that 
would be too true." 

She gave him her cloak as she spoke, and turned 
that he might wrap it round her shoulders. This time 
he did not altogether believe her; and yet a suspicion 
recurred that had crossed his mind once or twice be- 
fore, that some profound and disastrous secret lay at 
the root of her life, and helped to paralyze it. It was 
not a suspicion that he cherished ; people, as he was 
aware, do not, as a rule, go about the world burdened 
with profound and disastrous secrets, whatever strange 
skeletons some of them may find it convenient to lock 
away in a back cupboard. Still it occurred to him 
now and again ; there were moments when he found 
her too inconsistent with herself, when she seemed to 
him too inexplicable. She turned round now in a 
moment, fastening and adjusting her cloak. 

"After all," she said, smiling, "your proposition, 
d la Jm dea Jma^ presents no such great attractions. 
To go abroad with Euphemia and her maid ! I can 
see myself yawning over half Europe — unless, indeed, 
you propose to accompany and entertain U8;Jn which 
case, the scandal would be complete. But you wouldn't 
like that — a frigid, conventional being like yourself." 

" How little you know me," said Lidderdale ; " noth- 



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AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 17 

occasionally in the coarse of their long acquaintance. 
She liked him extremely, he was aware. She made no 
secret of her preference for men over women, and he 
was one of the cleverest men she knew — quite the 
cleverest man with whom she had occasion to come 
frequently in contact. Lidderdale had a married sis- 
ter, whose husband's estate in the West of England 
almost joined that of Mr. Bromley ; and he not infre- 
quently paid her a long visit, during which he had oc- 
casion to see a good deal of Helen. In a way, as he 
knew, he had educated her. She led, for the greater 
part of the year, a very retired, almost remote, life at 
Bromley Court ; he was her connecting link, and no 
unimportant one, with the outer world. She was a 
great reader, and read with admirable intelligence and 
judgment ; and he was careful to supply her with every 
description of book, journal, and review that could 
possibly interest and entertain her. This made a com- 
mon ground on which they could always meet. Occa- 
sionally, indeed, he had suspected her of coquetry ; 
now and then he discovered her in caprice ; but, on the 
whole, she took him seriously and sedately, in a sort of 
Darby and Joan friendship, in which the preliminaries, 
the uncertainties, the reticences of early acquaintance 
had been abandoned almost before they had been rec- 
ognized. 

As a fact, they had, in one sense, never been aban- 
doned ; their talk, even as concerned their present in- 
terests, was only sometimes confidential ; they knew 
hardly anything of each other's past. Lidderdale, be- 
yond the most superficial facts, had never acquainted 
her with his ; Helen very rarely alluded to hers, and 



98 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

ing, naturally, could delight me more. But as I un- 
derstood you to say just now, you object to scandal.'' 

"Ah, for myself — but I am not sure that I should 
not like to see you in the heart of one," she said 
with her profound glance; and taking her fan and 
gloves from his hand, she crossed the hall to join her 
husband. 

That was some two or three years before the squire, 
by the advice of his doctors, spent a summer at the 
German baths in alleviation of a deep-seated and 
chronic ailment. During those years Mrs. Bromley 
continued to pass the greater part of her time at 
Bromley Court ; and when Lidderdale heard of their 
proposed visit to Homburg he wrote to congratulate 
her. "Homburg is not the most delightful place in 
the world," he said ; " it is not Italy, it is not the Alps, 
it is not art, nor scenery, nor medisevalism. But it is 
a charming country ; it is gay, it is full of life. The 
change will be good for Euphemia also; at nineteen 
she ought to begin to see something of the world, even 
if, as I suspect, some of her heart is extremely engaged 
in the neighborhood of Bromley Court." 

Two months later Mrs. Bromley wrote the little 
note, given in a previous chapter, which had brought 
Lidderdale to Baden. 



CHAPTER IV. 

LiDDEBDALE drew forward a chair and sat down ; 
but he got up again in the brief silence that succeeded 
the first phrases of greeting and inquiry, and after 
moving about the room a little, went and stood behind 
Mrs. Bromley, who had resumed her needle and her 
occupation of stitching down gold and silk threads on 
the piece of satin stretched in the frame before her. 

" How well you do everything," he said, after watch- 
ing her a moment in silence. 

" Is it to-day you make that discovery ?" she answered, 
not looking up. "But do sit down," she continued; 
"how do you know that it doesn't make me nervous 
to be watched like that ?" 

" No, no, you are not made nervous by so little," he 
answered. He sat down again, however, laying his 
hat and stick on a chair beside him, and drawing his 
own chair farther forward. " You have made your- 
self quite at home here, I see," he continued, glancing 
round the room; "it is delightful the way in which 
you have turned one of these comfortless hotel salons 
into a charming parlor. Not even all these mirrors 
and gilding have baffled you. How is the squire?" 

" He is better on the whole, I think — he is not very 
well to-day, by-the-by — but he is very broken, you 
know, poor old man. He will be very glad to see 
you; he finds it horribly dull here. Euphemia plays 
backgammon with him by the hour, and he creeps a 



so AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

little np and down the Lichtenthaler Allee. He is not 
good for much else." 

" And how is Euphemia ?" 

" Euphemia ?" said her mother, smiling. " But she ic 
always Euphemia. She has gone into the forest with 
Millar to sketch. She also will be very glad to see you." 

" Ah, well, I shall be glad to see her," said Lidder- 
dale. " If I had a daughter, I should wish her to be 
like Euphemia ; as a young girl she is exactly right. 
Does she like being at Baden ?" 

" Oh, Euphemia likes everjrthing," her mother an- 
swered, smiling again. ^^ She has a charming nature, 
you know." 

" Yes, yes, I am aware of it ; nobody more so. Still, 
one may have preferences ; and I was under the im- 
pression that a good many of Euphemia's preferences 
lay just now in the neighborhood of Bromley Court." 

**Are you alluding to Hugh Severne?" said Mrs. 
Bromley with directness. " You are wrong there, I 
believe — in fact, I am almost sure you are wrong." 
She laid down her needle, and leaning back in her 
chair, sat looking at him for a moment. " Do you 
know," she said, "if — to imagine a story quite in the 
blue — I were wholly, instead of only half French, if 
you, if all of us, in short, were French, I should feel 
disposed to try and arrange a marriage between you 
and Euphemia." 

"No, don't, don't," said Lidderdale, getting extreme- 
ly red, and reaching out his hand for his hat. " How 
can you say such things? It spoils everything; my 
liking for Euphemia — everything. Was it to say this 
that you wrote to me to come to Baden ?" 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 81 

" Oh, a story qnite in the blue," said Mrs. Bromley. 
^' Imagine the squire a Frenchman ! We should first 
have to imagine that." She bent forward to resume 
her needla "Nevertheless, you know," she said, "I 
fancied yon were a little in love with Euphemia." 

" Oh, in love, in love," said Lidderdale, impatiently. 
" I hate the phrase." He set down his hat again, and 
went on more quietly. "I'm not a marrying man," 
he said ; " I thought you knew that. What has being 
in love to do with it ? No one is in love after a year's 
marriage. If you tell me one is something better, I 
am not in a position to contradict you. Very possibly 
one is ; but then there are ever so many things besides. 
I can't risk it ; I don't want to risk it. Take it for 
the sake of argument that I am in love with Euphemia 
— which I'm not — what do I know about her? I 
mean, how do I know into what she will develop 
after she is married ? She may run up long bills at 
the milliner's — you have brought her up very ex- 
pensively ; she mayn't know how to manage servants ; 
she may be unpunctuality itself, and there is nothing 
I hate like unpunctuality. How can I tell?" 

"No, apparently you are not in love with Euphemia," 
said the girl's mother, smiling. " Kindly ring the bell, 
and we will have some tea. You need have no fear 
of Euphemia's bills," she continued, " she doesn't care 
nearly enough about her clothes; it is a defect in a 
young girl. If I did not look after her, she would be 
capable of wearing a gray carmelite frock from one 
year's end to the other." 

" Oh, that is merely a detail ; I put it by way of il- 
lustration. The simple fact is that I am not a marry- 



82 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

ing man. I might give you twenty reasons for it, but 
I don't know that they signify." 

" You are too selfish, too indifferent — " 

" Oh, well, put it that way, if you like." He flung 
himself back in his chair. " You are anxious to marry 
Euphemia?" he said. 

"Oh — as a mother is anxious to see her child 
happily settled. I am not anxious to get rid of her — 
naturally." 

" I should suppose not. Well, I should be a very 
bad match, you know ; you could hardly find a worse. 
I have no money to speak of, and no particular pros- 
pects either." 

Helen gazed at him a moment. "You protest too 
much," she said. "I shall begin to think you are in 
love with Euphemia after all, or — with some one else ; 
that you have a grande passion on hand, an unattaina- 
ble ideal." 

She looked away again, and began searching for a 
thread in the heap of embroidery silks at her side. 
Lidderdale sat staring before him a while, his hands 
clasped behind his head. 

" No — no — " he said at last, " your first guess was 
the happier one; I have no grande passion, I am in- 
different; yes, that is very true. I see hundreds of 
women, some pretty, some ugly, some good, some bad ; 
most of them simply neutral. I am always falling in 
love a little — I may tell you that. For about three 
days I am taken in, and then I find it is the same story 
over again. If it is a married woman, she is good to 
her husband, and then she is not my afifair ; or else she 
is bad to her husband, and then she is not my affair 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 88 

either. If she is a charming young girl, I delight in 
her — to look at especially. But I know the end of 
your charming young girl; she is not, after all, the 
perfection she seems, and at the end of three days I 
have found it out. She has limitations of intellect or 
intelligence, or temper, or nature, and if I were to mar- 
ry her, I should feel nothing but the limitations. I 
know it — I know it, as if I had been married ten times 
over. I like women as friends — some of them. But 
to take one as a wife is a different matter altogether." 

Mrs. Bromley was silent. "You might found a 
family," she said at last. 

" Found a family ! In these days — in these days to 
talk of founding a family ; to perpetuate, with one's 
eyes open, sin and misery, to offer another victim or 
another brutal conqueror in the universal crash that is 
coming. In what sort of world do you suppose our 
successors will find themselves?" 

"Oh, in Utopia," answered Mrs. Bromley rather 
vaguely. She turned round and began to busy her- 
self with the tea-equipage the waiter had brought in 
and placed on the small table at her side. "My good 
sir," she said, "you have expended a great deal of 
breath in trying to prove to me that you are incapable 
of falling in love in a discreet and bourgeois fashion, 
or perhaps, indeed, of falling in love at all. But do 
you know it seems to me that you are talking rather 
immorally ?" 

" Oh, immorally !" He leaned his head on the back 
of his chair, and sat gazing up at the ceiling for a few 
minutes. "It was not I, in any case, who introduced 
the subject," he said, " but as we are upon it, it is as 

8 



82 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

ing man. I might give you twettj reasoDS for it, but 
I don't know that they signify." 

"You are too selfish, too indifferent — ^" 

"Oh, well, put it that way, if you like." He flung 
himself back in his chair. " You are anxious to marry 
Euphemia?" he said. 

"Oh — as a mother is anxious to see her child 
happily settled. I am not anxious to get rid of her — 
naturally." 

" I should suppose not. Well, I should be a very 
bad match, you know ; you could hardly find a worse. 
I have no money to speak of, and no particular pros- 
pects either." 

Helen gazed at him a moment. " You protest too 
much," she said. " I shall begin to think you are in 
love with Euphemia after all, or — with some one else; 
that you have a grande passion on hand, an unattaina- 
ble ideal." 

She looked away again, and began searching for a 
thread in the heap of embroidery silks at her side. 
Lidderdale sat staring before him a while, his hands 
clasped behind his head. 

" No — no — " he said at last, " your first guess was 
the happier one; I have no grande passion, I am in- 
different ; yes, that is very true. I see hundreds of 
women, some pretty, some ugly, some good, some bad ; 
most of them simply neutral. I am always falling in 
love a little — I may tell you that. For about three 
days I am taken in, and then I find it is the same story 
over again. If it is a married woman, she is good to 
her husband, and then she is not my affair ; or else she 
is bad to her husband, and then she is not my affair 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 83 

either. If she is a charming young girl, I delight in 
her — to look at especially. But I know the end of 
your charming young girl ; she is not, after all, the 
perfection she seems, and at the end of three days I 
have found it out. She has limitations of intellect or 
intelligence, or temper, or nature, and if I were to mar- 
ry her, I should feel nothing but the limitations. I 
know it — I know it, as if I had been married ten times 
over. I like women as friends — some of them. But 
to take one as a wife is a different matter altogether." 

Mrs. Bromley was silent. " You might found a 
family," she said at last. 

" Found a family ! In these days — in these days to 
talk of founding a family ; to perpetuate, with one's 
eyes open, sin and misery, to offer another victim or 
another brutal conqueror in the universal crash that is 
coming. In what sort of world do you suppose our 
successors will find themselves?" 

"Oh, in Utopia," answered Mrs. Bromley rather 
vaguely. She turned round and began to busy her- 
self with the tea-equipage tlie waiter had brought in 
and placed on the small table at her side. "My good 
sir," she said, "you have expended a great deal of 
breath in trying to prove to me that you are incapable 
of falling in love in a discreet and bourgeois fashion, 
or perhaps, indeed, of falling in love at all. But do 
you know it seems to me that you are talking rather 
immorally ?" 

" Oh, immorally !" He leaned his head on the back 
of his chair, and sat gazing up at the ceiling for a few 
minutes. "It was not I, in any case, who introduced 
the subject," he said, " but as we are upon it, it is as 



d4 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

society, it was quite conceivable that for Mrs. Brom- 
ley to set off on a continental tour without her hus- 
band might awake an immitigable scandal. But Helen 
was not conventional — not ip his conception of her ; 
he imagined that she had sufficient power, if she chose 
to exert it, to take her own way with her husband, in 
spite of his primitive, if respectable, ideas; and there 
were moments when the narrow routine to which this 
rare and beautiful creature bound herself impressed 
him to a degree that made him wonder why on 
earth she didn't take the reins into her own hands, and 
order her own life. She had, so far as he knew her, 
every quality necessary for trampling on the English 
conventions she never affected to do otherwise than 
despise. Why the devil didn't she do it ? He hinted 
the question to her one day. She received it in si- 
lence, and in silence sat gazing before her for a while, 
with an unfathomable look in her beautiful eyes. 

"Do you know," she said, turning to him at last, 
with a smile, " I have the idea that you are suggesting 
to me something extremely immoral. I ought to re- 
sent that, I suppose, only I have also the idea that you 
intend it, in a way, as a compliment. You are mis- 
taken about me, however; I am not the unconven- 
tional being you suppose. I am terribly afraid of 
life ; and no one who is that can afford to despise its 
conventionalities. To do what you suggest might 
cause the most terrible outcry! What would Lady 
Belton and old Mrs. Bich, for instance, say on seeing 
my husband walk in to dinner without me ? I couldn't 
afford such a scandal." 

" Ah, that is what I don't understand," murmured 



▲N EXQUISITE FOOL. 96 

Lidderdale. ^^I Bhould have thought you wouldn't 
care." 

" No, no, you are wrong," she said, with an air of 
deliberation. She sat silent for a while, smoothing 
down the folds of her rich brocade gown with her 
slender fingers covered with rings. She was dressed 
for a dinner-party, and was talking to Lidderdale be- 
fore the hall fire at Bromley Court while waiting for 
her husband to appear; there were diamonds at her 
neck and in her thick brown hair ; Lidderdale thought 
he had never seen her look more beautiful. 

^^ I am not independent," she said, after a moment, 
in her quick, delicately -modulated accents, "and no 
woman who is not independent can afford to disregard 
appearances. I should risk too much through even a 
slight diflEerence with my husband. You don't see 
how? But do you know, you are really profoundly 
immoral to-night ! Are you anxious to bring about a 
quarrel between me and the squire?" 

"Not at all. How can you suppose such a thing?" 
said Lidderdale. " But there are moments," he went 
on, " when you seem to me half stifled by your life ; I 
should like to see what you could do elsewhere. It is 
a waste that you should be here always. From an 
economical point of view — " 

"Oh, I know your economics!" she said, smiling 
again, and interrupting him ; "you are too economical 
by half; you want to turn your friends to profit, and 
use them up as experiments. Besides, you are mis- 
taken," she went on, more seriously. " You think I 
am indifferent to my position as the squire's wife^ to 
my standing in the county, to what Lady Belton and 



26 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

MrB. Eich and Miss Masham think of me ? Well, you 
are wrong; at least — no, in one sense you are right. 
From one point of view I don't care that for them. 
Why should I? One cries for the sun, you know. 
Oh, I cry and I cry, though you don't see me with red 
eyes. But from another point of view, it is the best I 
can get, and I have no wish to throw it away. I am 
dining out to-night, and the people will bore me to 
extinction. The men are so dull that I yawn in their 
face, but then I like the privilege of being able to 
yawn in their face. As for the women, they are each 
more stupid and ill-dressed than the other. I detest 
them, and they all detest me, and I make myself per- 
fectly charming to them. All that amuses me, you 
know." 

Lidderdale was silent. 

" And then," she continued, with an air of somewhat 
cynical frankness that it occasionally pleased her to 
assume, " I have no money — of my own, I mean ; not 
a half-penny ; and life is inconceivable to me without 
money. I love luxury — not in the vulgar sense, of 
course, but as a virtue, an indispensable grace. A 
woman is no more complete without it than she would 
be without her hair and her teeth. There are plenty 
of women who have to do without it, of course ; there 
are women who have neither hair nor teeth ; but one 
hardly takes them into account. And you want me 
to break with the (Conventionalities of life? Ko; the 
risk is too great." 

" How you talk 1" said Lidderdale ; " and I don't be- 
lieve a word you say." But he did believe it after a 
fashion. 



AN EXQUISITB FOOL. 87 

^^ Ah, that is because I am too sincere," she answered, 
opening and closing her fan ; '' every one knows that 
is the way to get one's self discredited." She rose 
abruptly, as the squire's step was heard on the stairs 
that led down into the hall. " Believe everything I 
tell you," she said, with a sudden passionate note in 
her voice, ^^but that I am the most miserable, the 
most fettered, the most tortured of women ; for that 
would be too true." 

She gave him her cloak as she spoke, and turned 
that he might wrap it round her shoulders. This time 
he did not altogether believe her ; and yet a suspicion 
recurred that had crossed his mind once or twice be- 
fore, that some profound and disastrous secret lay at 
the root of her life, and helped to paralyze it. It was 
not a suspicion that he cherished ; people, as he was 
aware, do not, as a rule, go about the world burdened 
with profound and disastrous secrets, whatever strange 
skeletons some of them may find it convenient to lock 
away in a back cupboard. Still it occurred to him 
now and again ; there were moments when he found 
her too inconsistent with herself, when she seemed to 
him too inexplicable. She turned round now in a 
moment, fastening and adjusting her cloak. 

"After all," she said, smiling, "your proposition, 
d la Jm dea jmSy presents no such great attractions. 
To go abroad with Euphemia and her maid ! I can 
see myself yawning over half Europe — unless, indeed, 
you propose to accompany and entertain us;^in which 
case, the scandal would be complete. But you wouldn't 
like that — a frigid, conventional being like yourself." 

" How little you know me," said Lidderdale ; " noth- 



88 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

cannot ; and I cannot urge you further. And yet, on 
the strength of our old acquaintance and friendship, 
I could find it in me for once to implore you." 

She leaned forward a little as she spoke, fixing her 
eyes on Lidderdale with an expression he had never 
seen in them before. He got up, strongly moved and 
excited himself, and took two or three turns up and 
down the room. He had no doubt of the genuineness 
and strength of her agitation. Helen was not at all 
given to vague hysterical emotion ; he associated her, 
indeed, always with a sort of hardness, and the spec- 
tacle of her in an attitude of entreaty stung him al- 
most unendurably. Her beauty moved him and her 
grace, and the old ties of friendship to which she had 
appealed; if she had never touched him to tender- 
ness, something more poignant than tenderness stirred 
him now. And yet through all, he was conscious of 
an extreme perplexity. There was nothing new to 
him in all that she had been saying ; if she had never 
said it before, it was, he had always felt sure, that she 
had too much courage, too much pride, too much reti- 
cence ; not that she did not feel it. What had moved 
her to passionate utterance now? That something lay 
behind, he felt convinced, though he was utterly un- 
able to divine what. He felt convinced that though 
all she had been saying was true in one sense, it was 
not true in another; that though she might have this 
passionate longing to escape, it was not that that was 
urging her now, but something else. She had not 
mentioned her husband, but that did not surprise him ; 
if she had finally settled on a scheme of life apart from 
his, no thought of him would arrest her. But remem- 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 39 

bering all her past declarations on that point, be felt 
at a loss to reconcile them with her present attitude. 
H^went up to her again in a minute, and stood oppo- 
site to her, leaning on the back of the chair from which 
he had risen. She had not moved till then, but as he 
approached she straightened herself, throwing back 
her head with one of her quick gestures. 

" I don't know what on earth to say to you," he be- 
gan, with a good deal more feeling in his voice than 
in his words. " You are in trouble of some kind, I 
can see, and I would do anything I could to help you ; 
but I own that I think your plan that I should marry 
Euphemia oflE- hand, preposterous. It is a disrespect 
to her to suppose even that she would consent to it. 
But I am disposed to agree with you that it might be 
well for Euphemia to be married. Let me propose 
this: Did you know that young Severne is coming 
immediately to Baden? You did not know it?" as 
Helen made a silent movement. " It is the case, how- 
ever ; it was from my sister I heard it, in a letter I re- 
ceived from her yesterday ; you know she and Hugh 
are great friends. He is coming on Euphemia's ac- 
count, of course. If you like, I will speak to Euphe- 
mia — I have some little influence with her, I dare say 
— ^I will say what I can to her on the subject ; and on 
Hugh's side, at any rate, I can undertake to say that 
once engaged, there will be no question of any unnec- 
essary delay in the marriage." 

Helen looked at him mutely for a while; her si- 
lence disconcerted him. At last "So be it," she said, 
rapidly, and glanced aside at one of the hotel waiters 
who had just entered with a card on a salver. Helen 



40 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

took the card, read the name inscribed, and crashed it 
up in her hand. 

" Say I am not at home, that I am engaged, any- 
thing," she said to the waiter. 

"Pardon, madame," the man replied, respectfully; 
" but the porter, I think, said you were in, and the gen- 
tleman followed me up-stairs." 

"Ah!" said Helen, rising with an abrupt move- 
ment. " So be it," she said again to Lidderdale ; then 
added rapidly in French, " You will find her some- 
where on the forest-path leading to Geroldsau." 

As she spoke she turned to receive the new-comer. 
Whatever discomfiture she might feel at his appear- 
ance, she betrayed none in her greeting of him. " This 
is an unexpected pleasure — I had no idea you were in 
Baden," she said, as she went forward to meet her vis- 
itor. Lidderdale saw a man of middle height, dressed 
in a light gray overcoat, who paused half-way between 
the door and the window ; but it was a cursory glance 
only that he gave. He perceived that he was no long- 
er wanted, and left the room. 



CHAPTER V. 

EuFHEMiA was a young girl who said her prayers 
night and morning, who went to church on Sunday, 
and made and broke several good resolutions almost 
every day of her life ; such as to put her shoes straight 
when she took them off at bedtime, to get up at six 
o'clock for an hour's study before breakfast, to sup- 
press a yawn at the twelfth game of backgammon with 
her step-father on the long, rainy, country afternoons, 
and so on. A large Venetian photograph of Carpaccio's 
Dream of St. Ursula hung above Enphemia's bed ; it 
had been given to her by Lidderdale, who had told 
her it was the picture of a good girl ; and for a good 
girl to see an angel in her sleep as St. Ursula had done, 
she should, it seemed to Euphemia, set her shoes at 
precisely the same angle as that at which that charm- 
ing saint's are deposited. The shoes, naturally, were 
figurative of several things; but Euphemia no less in- 
variably forgot them when she took them ofiE, than 
she forgot to wake herself at six o'clock in the morn- 
ing to pursue her studies. She had the habit of going 
to her window at night to look at the sky ; that was 
what made her forget her shoes ; it so often seemed to 
her, that to eyes purged to see it, an angel vision might 
at any moment cross the star -strewn darkness that 
spread itself above the trees and pastures about her 
home. She believed in angels, as she read of them in 
the Bible; it was only, perhaps, because she was not 



42 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

good enough (so she sometimes thought to herself after 
she had said her prayers) that one had not in fact ap- 
peared to her in shining bodily presence. She lived a 
little in dreams, it will be seen, but not much — only 
enough to give a visionary background to the prose 
of life ; rarely enough to make her impatient of the 
prose itself. She had hardly any accomplishments; 
she drew indifferently, and played not at all ; but her 
education had not been neglected. Chiefly she had 
been taught by an old clergyman, a friend of Helen's 
father, who, compelled by ill-health to resign his living, 
led a retired life in the village close to Bromley Court, 
and instructed his old friend's little granddaughter in 
Latin, Euclid, history, and various simple pieties; all 
of which Euphemia studied with intelligence and do- 
cility, without caring greatly for any of them perhaps, 
except the last, to which she gave a rare and genuine 
expression of her own. Lidderdale, who sometimes 
laughed at her studies, had once declared that her 
genius was for living not learning, and that she 
would soon wholesomely forget her mathematics. Of 
living, indeed, she knew very little so far — her mother 
who knew so much, had given her child no instruc- 
tion on this point. Her life had been more sheltered 
than that of many young girls ; she had been kept in 
the school-room a year beyond the usual time, and had 
never been encouraged, though she had not been for- 
bidden to form intimacies with young people of her 
own age. This was no great hardship to Euphemia, 
who took her studies too conscientiously not to give a 
good deal of time to them, and who adored her mother 
in a measure that made her at no time happier than in 



§ 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 43 

her company ; but Lidderdale had sometimes remon- 
strated with Mrs. Bromley on holding the young girl 
so much aloof from her kind. It was not good for 
her, he insisted; it kept her out of touch with life. 

" Oh, I like her as she is," Mrs. Bromley affirmed, 
" and I thought you did too." 

" I like her, of course," Lidderdale answered ; " she 
is exquisite, she is exactly right. But life won't stand 
still for the purpose of keeping her at the same point ; 
and she will sufiEer for it by-and-by." 

" I hate young girl intimacies," was all Mrs.Bromley 
replied ; and though Euphemia by degrees was neces- 
sarily drawn more into the society about her, she con- 
tinued, except in regard to one or two families with 
whom circumstances brought her into closer contact, 
to stand a good deal aloof from it. Lidderdale ceased 
to remonstrate after a while ; and as, when he saw Eu- 
phemia from one year to another, he still found her 
exactly right, he was occasionally not far from admit- 
ting that Mrs. Bromley had been right also. 

As he went in search of her now, he felt an immense 
perplexity as to the meaning of the rather strained in- 
terview he had just had with her mother. It troubled, 
it disturbed, him by its enigmatic utterances : he could 
not, in short, understand the first word of the mystery. 
Presently he resolved to put it out of his mind alto- 
gether for the moment ; whatever he might finally de- 
termine to say to Euphemia, he could say better, un- 
biassed so far as possible, by the memory of her 
mother's looks and accents. He knew Baden well, 
and had no difficulty in following the direction given 
him by Mrs. Bromley ; and the walk lasted long enough 



44 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

for him to shake off in some measure the influence of 
the scene he had just been through. He was begin- 
ning, in fact, to think he must have somehow missed 
Euphemia, as he followed turn after turn of the path 
that wound upward through the gloom of the thick- 
ranked, slim -stemmed fir woods, when he caught a 
glimpse of her white dress just above him. She was 
seated on the grassy bank of a path where the clearer 
green of some beeches mingled with the prevailing 
sombre hue of the forest, and where an opening among 
the trees afiEorded a glimpse of the sunny, idyllic valley 
below ; her attendant, work in hand, was seated sewing 
at a little distance. Euphemia's sketch-book was on 
her knee, her box of colors at her side; she was 
sketching conscientiously. Lidderdale's step was noise- 
less on the soft, needle -strewn path, and she was un- 
conscious of his approach until he stood close beside 
her. She looked up, and seeing him, let her sketch- 
book and her implements fall to the ground as she 
jumped up to give him a friendly greeting. 

" You have come !" she said. " Mamma thought that 
you perhaps might." 

" Is that what she told you ?" said Lidderdale. " I 
fancied she expected me to-day." 

"No, not certainly; she said you were travelling 
somewhere in Germany, and had written to say you 
might perhaps come here. Have you seen her ?" 

" I have just been spending an hour with her," said 
Lidderdale, wondering a little why Helen should have 
been at the trouble of so trivial an invention (he had 
named the day and hour of his arrival in his note) on 
80 trivial a matter. It was not the first time, however, 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 45 

that he suspected her of occasionally blurring, so to 
speak, the outlines of her life by a thin mist of devia- 
tion from the fact. He looked down at Euphemia, 
who had resumed her seat, and picking up her sketch- 
book, Iianded it tjo her. She saw him glance at it as 
he did so, and with a charming, childish movement, 
covered her sketch with botli hands. She instantly 
removed them, however, and offered it to him for in- 
spection. He took it, contemplated it for a minute, 
and gave it back. 

" That is not very good," he said, smiling at her. 

Euphemia looked down at the drawing, studying it 
with undiscerning eyes. 

" You don't see how it is good or bad ?" said Lidder- 
dale. 

She shook her head, smiling a little. 

" And don't perhaps very much care ?" he went on. 

She smiled again, and taking up her brush, began to 
set some ineffective touches. 

" Ah, that is very wrong of you," Lidderdale de- 
clared, seating himself beside her. "And now, if you 
care to dismiss your maid, I will see you back safely 
to the hotel. If you didn't know your sketch was 
bad," he went on, " why did you put your hands over 

itr 

"Oh, I know it is not very good," she answered; 
"mamma always tells me so; it is only that 1 don't 
see how to make it better." 

" Then why did you immediately afterwards give it 
to me to look at ?" 

Euphemia hesitated and colored a little before re- 
plying. "I think," she said then, turning her beauti- 



46 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

ful eyea seriously on ber companion, " if one does a 
thing badly, one ougbt to be willing that it should be 
known." 

"Ah, that is bad, that is morbid," he answered, lean- 
ing back on one elbow; "you have no business to in- 
dulge yourself in such ascetic luxuries as that." 

She continued to look at him seriously. "Do you 
think nie morbid ?" she said. " I am not sure that I 
know just what that means." 

"No, no," he answered, "I am far from thinking 
you anything so disagreeable. But I think you have 
sometimes a morbid impulse. You have something 
of the ascetic temperament, and there is nothing leads 
people into more extravagant self-indulgences than 
that, you know." 

" I don't mean to be self-indulgent," said the young 
girl, taking up her brush again. 

" I'm sure you don't, or you wouldn't conscientiously 
spend this fine afternoon in making a bad drawing. 
Do put it away, and enjoy the sunshine and the forest 
without trying to think which color in that tin box of 
yours will best match them." 

Euphemia looked at him, shook her head, but obedi- 
ently laid her sketch-book on the grass by her side. 
"Now I have nothing to do," she said, with more of 
gayety in her accent ; " see how idle you make me." 

" Not at all : you are going to exert your intellect 
in talking to me. But you are like all women ; you 
can sit for hours thinking of nothing but gossip and 
chiffons^ and because you have a brush or a needle be- 
tween your fingers, you imagine yourself to be indus- 
trious." 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 47 

" I do ?" said Euphemia, gently. 

" Yon — ^you — ^generically, as a woman, I mean. Per- 
sonally, you don't care much about chiffons — not 
enough, according to your mother. You distress her 
by it ; she consider it a moral failing." 

"Oh," said the girl, laughing a little, " mamma does 
not, I am sure." 

" Yes, yes, she does. She declares you would as 
soon wear an old gray carmelite as the prettiest gown 
she can devise for you ; she considers that a moral fail- 
ing, and so do I — or so should I," he corrected himself, 
"if you did not, as a fact, look equally charming in 
whatever you put on. Perhaps you are indifferent, 
because you know that yourself." 

Euphemia turned her eyes seriously on him again, 
as though pondering the question. " Perhaps I do,'* 
she said at last. " Yes, if I thought it made much 
difference in my appearance, I suppose I might think 
more about it." 

Lidderdale looked at her and broke into a laugh. 
"Yon — you are impaycMe-^l mean incomparable," 
he said, jumping up and walking away a step or two. 
He came back and threw himself on the grass at her 
side again. " Forgive my impertinence," he said, " but 
we are too old friends for you not to forgive me, I 
know. Besides, I don't mean to be impertinent." 

" You need not tell me that," said Euphemia, simply. 

" No ? Well, that is all right then ; I am going to 
say what I please, like — like a grandfather, and you 
won't think me impertinent. Seriously, you know, I 
am going to scold you a little. You are morbid, or 
you will become so ; you think too much of yourself ; 



/ 



48 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

every five minutes you are asking yourself if you are 
doing right or wrong. Life is a great deal wider than 
all that ; you take yourself much too seriously." 

Euphemia sat silent for a while, her chin propped on 
her hand. "Can one take one's self too seriously?" 
she said, at last. " It seems to me sometimes that I — 
that one cannot be strict enough to keep one's self 
from going wrong, you know." 

Lidderdale looked at her, broke into another irre- 
pressible laugh, and changed the subject abruptly. 
" Well, and how do you like Baden ?" he said. " Have 
you any acquaintance here ? Are you going out at all." 

"I like Baden very much," said Euphemia, in some 
surprise at the sudden turn he had given to the con- 
versation. "Mamma has met two or three people here 
that she knows, but we have not been out at all — in 
the evening, I mean. Only to-morrow we are going 
to a ball. It is a sort of public-private ball," she pro- 
ceeded to explain, "given by Lady Martyn ; you have 
met her, have you not, at home in Devonshire? She 
has a villa here, about a mile outside the town, and she 
is going to give a subscription ball in aid of those poor 
people whose village was burned down a month or two 
ago; she asked mamma when we first came here to be 
one of the patronesses. There are only a certain num- 
ber of tickets issued, because she doesn't want every 
one, she says. But we are going." 

"Naturally," said Lidderdale; "and I am going, 
too. I want to see you at a ball ; that is a pleasure 
I have never had. But perhaps you disapprove of 
dancing." 

" I didn't say so," began Euphemia, and paused. " I 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 49 

see ; you think me very narrow, very rigid," she said 
at last. 

"No, I don't; I only think yon may become so. 
You don't know how that sort of thing grows upon 
people. They begin by eternally picking and choosing 
what they call right, and then, when they fancy they've 
found it, they stick to it and declare every one else is 
in the wrong. Well, since you don't disapprove of 
dancing, will you dance with me to-morrow evening?" 

"I didn't know you could dance," said Euphemia, 
smiling. 

" Oh yes, I can — not very splendidly, I must own ; 
but I am sure I could get through a quadrille with 
your assistance. But it's no compliment to ask you 
for a quadrille." 

" Oh, for that — " said Euphemia. " I would rather, 
I think," she went on, smiling again, " dance a qua- 
drille with you than a waltz." 

" Well, I dare say you're right — in any case you will 
have a better partner probably than I could ever be. 
Probably Hugh Severne will be here." 

He glanced at Euphemia as he spoke. Her color 
rose a little, but she did not move ; she continued to 
look straight before her, her hands folded in her lap. 

"That doesn't interest you ?" he inquired. 

" Oh — it interests me," said Euphemia. 

"Moderately, I see. Well, I shall have a warmer 
welcome for your friend. I always consider Hugh 
one of the best fellows I know. There is a simplicity 
about him, and at the same time a certain shrewd- 
ness — " 

"Oh, I know all about Hugh," said Euphemia, with 

4 



60 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

something of petulance that she immediately repressed. 
"I mean, I have known him all my life," she contin- 
ued, looking at Lidderdale and smiling. He looked at 
her in return, but this time he could not read the ex- 
pression of her eyes. In fact, he made the reflection 
that there are moments when the most candid eyes in 
the world can be made to express nothing, and the 
reflection caused him a certain irritation. He felt all 
at once that he would give a good deal to know what 
Euphemia thought of himself and Hugh Severne re- 
spectively. She gave him no assistance, however ; her 
eyes had turned again to contemplate the glimpses of 
the valley through the trees; but the desire prompted 
his next words. 

" I don't believe," he said, with something of play- 
fulness that concealed his real intention, " that you like 
me — any one — so well as you do your mother." 

Euphemia looked at him in an astonishment that 
made him realize the irrelevance of his remark to what 
had gone before; then colored and laughed. "Of 
course not, of course I don't like you — any one — as 
well as I do mamma," slve said. " There is no one in 
the whole world I care for as I do for her." 

" Ah, I wonder why," said Lidderdale; " what makes 
you care for her so much ?" 

Euphemia opened her eyes wide. " What a question 
to ask !" she said. " I care for her because she is my 
mother, I suppose." 

"No, no, that is no reason. There are plenty of 
young girls who don't care for their mother at all — not 
in that way, I mean. They order her about, or snub 
her, or patronize her. They are not at all like you." 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 51 

"I suppose their mothers are not like mine," Euphe- 
mia replied. '^I should never think of ordering 
mamma about; I like her to order me. She is so 
clever, you know." 

" Yes," her companion assented, " she is very clever." 

" And so beautiful," the young girl continued. 

"Yes, she is most beautiful." 

"She looks so young; she is always the most beauti- 
ful person in the room. And then she is so good." 

"Yes," Lidderdale replied, with a shade less of 
cordiality. 

" And clever," Euphemia repeated, not marking his 
change of tone. " I should like to be as clever as that." 

" Oh well, you don't need that sort of cleverness," 
murmured Lidderdale, leaning back, and pulling at a 
tuft of grass. " So you can care for no one who is not 
beautiful and clever and good," he said, raising himself 
from his reclining posture. " What a prospect for me." 

" Oh, you — " began Euphemia, and broke oflE. "You 
are clever, at any rate," she said, smiling, with a sus- 
picion of malice. 

"Oh yes, I'm clever enough," he answered with a 
humorous groan. " I'm confoundedly, odiously clever. 
It seems to me sometimes as if I could see right into 
people, and all their thoughts and motives running 
round and round like the wheels of a clock. It spoils 
life to be like that." 

"Can you see into me in that way?" asked the 
young girl. 

Lidderdale looked at her and shook his head. " No," 
he answered, very gently. " I can't altogether see into 
you ; I wish I could." 



63 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

"And mararna — can you see into her?" 
"Yes — no, I can't always see into her." 
"Ah well, yon see you're not so clever as you 
thought," said Enphemia, smiling at him again. " That 
ought to be some comfort to you." 

" I can see into you now — you are laughing at me," 
said Lidderdale. "No, no, I don't want that sort of 
comfort. If one is neither good nor beautiful, let one 
at least have the consolation of being clever." 

Euphemia made no answer; but all at once she 
colored extremely; colored to a degree that made 
Lidderdale at first stare at her for a moment, then 
turn away his eyes as though he had surprised her 
in a secret through some indiscretion of his own. 
When he looked round again she had risen, and with 
her back towards him, was collecting her drawing 
materials. It was getting late, she observed in a mo- 
ment; they ought, she believed, to be going home; 
and, without waiting for an answer, preceded him 
down the hill. Lidderdale followed, without at once 
rejoining her; the narrowness of the path that wound 
among the trees permitted of his doing so; and as he 
followed, a hundred thoughts whirled in his brain. 
He wished, that was his first reflection, that Mrs. 
Bromley had never suggested that question of a mar- 
riage between Euphemia and himself ; it had disturbed 
all his frank and simple relations with her. Not the 
less, he had a suspicion, quite unsolicited on his part, 
that if he chose to set himself to woo and win her he 
might succeed; and the suspicion, unsolicited though 
it was, gave him a moment of exquisite pleasure. In 
view of the more barren sands of life that begin to 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 08 

spread themselves out before a man as he approaclies 
his fortieth year, such wooing and winning had the 
aspect of a fresh and delicate oasis, from which he 
seemed to feel already a cool, reviving breath. But 
with that clearness of prevision tliat had seldom failed 
Lidderdale in the most sentimental crises of his life, 
he perceived not only that delightful oasis, but the 
years beyond, whose delight, he was persuaded, was 
much less assured. Euphemia was adorable as a young 
girl ; her slight rigidities, her rather narrow code, her 
enchanting candor that baffled him at once by its open- 
ness and by its reticences, were like an exquisite fret- 
work set to guard a precious jewel. But he could fore- 
see, with a precision that at once irritated and consoled 
him, how through continual contact with a man of his 
character these slight rigidities, by sheer force of op- 
position, might harden and formalize, how they might 
end by exasperating him. His experience of life — an 
experience that Euphemia could never share — had 
given him, rightly or wrongly, a way of looking at 
things, which, as she came by degrees to understand it, 
would inevitably shock, possibly alienate her. He had 
no desire to shock her, nor yet to give himself a do- 
mestic critic and mentor. Still less did he wish to 
convert her, to see her in that false and exaggerated 
attitude in which the ambition to hold certain opinions, 
without the adequate knowledge and experience to 
form them, is apt to place women. There was a me- 
dium, he was aware, but that did not immediately con- 
cern him ; he had no desire even to educate Euphemia; 
he had no faith in his powers in that direction. 
He was, of course, aware also that there were plenty 



54 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

of women with whom he was on very good terms 
without greatly concerning himself as to tlieir opin- 
ions one way or another, and who entertained him, 
on the whole, more than Enphemia was ever likely to 
do ; but that only brought him to another side of the 
question. Lidderdale, as may have been inferred, had 
no very strong liking for women as a class ; for one 
thing the antagonism between the sexes was always 
very present to him, and their wayward relations ; it 
was almost impossible for him to take a woman simply, 
except in the case of a young girl like Euphemia. 
Nevertheless, he was a man who found pleasure in 
their society; he had various more or less intimate 
friendships with women which he found suflSciently 
edifying and entertaining; and like a dim but well- 
defined image there rose before him a vision of Eu- 
phemia, jealous — not violently, or reproachfully, but 
piningly jealous. Good heavens, a wife who should 
weep out her eyes in secret, and meet one with a pa- 
tient smile ! Of course, if he married her, it would be 
his business to see that her smile was a happy one; 
but it was just there that he felt how his best inten- 
tions might one day dismally fail of their purpose. 
No, her mother's scheme was all wrong; they could 
never make each other happy — never. And yet how 
enchanting she was ! 

All these thoughts passed rapidly through his brain, 
not in tedious argument — he had naturally not lived 
to the age of thirty -seven without considering the 
question of marriage from every point of view — but 
with the certainty of a foregone conclusion. Decided- 
ly, he aflSirmed, he was not in love with Euphemia; . 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 65 

and yet, he supposed, he mnst be a little in love, or he 
would never have entertained the question for a mo- 
ment. He followed her down the steep brown path, 
her white skirt floating and fluttering before him 
among the trees, the delicate rings of hair that strayed 
beneath her hat shining now and again in the sun- 
light that filtered through the gloom. At the bottom 
of the hill, where the trees thinned away on either 
hand and the path widened, she stood still. Her mo- 
mentary embarrassment, from whatever cause it arose, 
had passed ; she greeted Lidderdale as he came up with 
her usual sweet and open smile. A sudden desire 
came over him to settle the matter there and forever. 
He hated the torments of uncertainty, the alternatives 
of doubt. He didn't wish to marry Euphemia; he had 
no wish to marry any one ; and yet he knew the ques- 
tion would arise again to harass and perplex him. He 
also stood still when he had reached the spot where 
Euphemia was waiting, and arrested her as she was 
about to move on. 

" Don't run away again," he said, taking her sketch- 
book from her, and leaning his back against a tree. 
"I want — your mother wanted me to speak to you, 
Euphemia. I had been talking to her, you know; and 
it was for that — partly for that — I came to meet you." 

He was extremely nervous. The young girl, glan- 
cing at him, perceived it, but the fact awakened no cor- 
responding embarrassment in her. On the contrary, 
her eyes, as she looked at him, took an expression of 
such divine sweetness and sincerity that Lidderdale 
could never understand afterwards how he resisted the 
impulse to fall — ^figuratively speaking — at her feet and 



56 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

declare his devotion to her for life. He had the sus- 
picion, too, the horrible suspicion, that his last words 
had led her to expect something of the sort ; it would 
lie in Euphemia's nature to receive such a declaration, 
begun in such bungling fashion, with extreme candor. 
Lidderdale rushed at his next words ; it was not until 
they were actually spoken that he was sure of what he 
was going to say, and knew that he had escaped what 
he felt to be a great danger. 

" We were talking just now of Hugh Severne," he 
said. "Your mother was speaking to me of him also. 
She has a great desire, Euphemia, to see you happy 
and — and settled, and this young fellow — " 

The blood rushed to Euphemia's cheeks again ; she 
turned and moved away a step or two. Lidderdale 
realized how extraordinary his manner must appear to 
her, how crude and abrupt his fashion of approaching 
such a subject. He recovered himself immediately. 
In any case, he had done what he intended ; he had 
set an irremovable barrier between himself and Euphe- 
mia; but he felt that he had been brutal in every 
sense. He was considering what on earth he should 
say next, when Euphemia came back. 

" If you don't mind," she said, without looking at him, 
" I would rather we didn't speak of this any more." 

"Ah, that must be as you like," answered Lidder- 
dale ; " but I thought we agreed just now that — as a 
grandfather, you know — I was privileged to say what 
I pleased." 

"No, no," she said; "don't let us talk about it any 
more." In a moment she added, " It is really getting 
late, you know. Let us go home." 



CHAPTER VI. 

Late that same evening Lidderdale was pacing up 
and down tlie dusky spaces of the Lich ten thaler Allee. 
He was not alone ; at his side was a young man dressed 
in a light gray suit, who had arrived straiglit from Eng- 
land hardly three hours before, but who looked as fresh 
and untravelled as though he had but lately emerged 
from his morning bath. Hugh Severne was, in fact, 
an excellent specimen of the best type of Englishman 
of a certain class — slender, firmly built, fresh-skinned, 
and fair-haired, with a clear and cool gray eye. He 
was also, as Lidderdale, who knew and liked the lad 
well, had long since discovered, the fortunate possessor 
of a nature as little complicated as is possible, perhaps, 
in a human being endowed with an excellent intelli- 
gence. At once simple and shrewd, he had, with an 
engaging ingenuousness in his own way of looking at 
things, a very su£Scient quickness to detect sophistica- 
tions in others. He held by certain decent traditions, 
which, if they have a somewhat antique air in these 
days, like one's grandmother's diamonds in an old- 
fashioned setting, are perhaps none the worse for that. 
He believed, for example, in chivalry towards women, 
in wholesome pieties, in cleanliness of life, in unsullied 
truth, and a clear sense of honor in public and private 
relations alike. If, in addition to these, he held some 
other traditions less unimpeachable in their lack of 
harmony with the current of modern opinion, he was 



58 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

not, perhaps, altogether to blame. It is true that his 
father, an old Tory squire, not unfrequently accused 
him of advanced views, and had taken the habit of de- 
claring that he hadn't known the value of a quiet life 
until his son came home from Oxford; but. the two 
men were the best friends in the world, and differed 
in detail rather than in principle. The older man, 
with an old-fashioned belief in the efficacy of whole- 
some neglect, was very apt, except in the matter of 
Christmas bounties and liberal help in cases of sick- 
ness, to leave his tenants alone from one rent-day to 
another. Young Hugh was of a more modem, a more 
energetic type ; forever riding about the estate, he was 
continually hunting up broken gates and battered cot- 
tages, and bringing them under the grumbling squire's 
notice ; but he, no more than his father, questioned a 
divine right to the possession of land, and the differ- 
ence, after all, was one between a careful and a care- 
less paternal government. Lidderdale, to whom such 
questions were personally indifferent, occasionally en- 
tertained himself by arguing the matter out with young 
Severne; but he could never persuade the lad to swerve 
an inch from his own perfectly simple and straightfor- 
ward view, and he liked him none the worse for it. He 
had the habit of seeing a good deal of Hugh when he 
was down in Devonshire with his sister. It was now 
some time since he had discovered the young fellow to 
be extremely in love with Euphemia ; and so far as his 
discernment went, though he was ready to admit that 
in that direction it did not go very far, he believed that 
Euphemia was in love or on the verge of being in love 
with him. It was an opinion that had been a little 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 59 

shaken that afternoon. He felt that he did not alto- 
gether understand Euphemia; but then he also felt 
that her mother's words had not been without their 
influence on him, that they might in some measure 
have biassed his judgment. They had thrown a light 
across his own path ; they had opened up a vista down 
which he felt it might be possible to let his imagina- 
tion stray. He had no intention of letting it stray ; and 
yet he had a sense that he could bear to wait on events 
and see what this yonng fellow had to say for himself. 
Notwithstanding what had passed, he had an impression 
that, so far as Euphemia was concerned, it still lay in 
his power to tip the balance in one direction or another. 
And, after all, if he chose to tip it in his own favor? 

These thoughts passed through Lidderdale's mind as 
he paced the long avenues of the Lichtenthaler AUee 
with his companion at his side. They were both silent 
for the moment, and the hour also was a silent one. It 
was, in fact, not far from midnight; almost all the 
lights were gone from the windows of the little town ; 
the stars and the white glow of a low and hidden moon 
shone above the hills and the blackness of the forest ; 
the murmur of running waters, the dark rustle of the 
leaves overhead filled the air. Again a sudden impa- 
tience came over Lidderdale, an imperative desire to 
have the matter settled one way or another. Yes, he 
hated uncertainty ; he had always kept his life-paths 
as clear of it as possible, and now he found himself 
swaying. He broke the silence abruptly. 

" Well," he said, with a fling of his head towards the 
hotel where the Bromleys were staying, " have you no 
news to ask me of our friends yonder?" 



60 AN EXQUISITE FOOL 

Yonng Severne stared at him for a moment, but 
made no answer. 

" I have the start of you by a dozen hours," Lidder- 
dale continued, in the same tone. "I arrived this 
morning, and have found time for a long talk with 
Mrs. Bromley and with her daughter. The squire I 
have not yet seen ; he has benefited, I understand, by 
the waters ; they are very comfortably settled at their 
mn." 

Young Severne turned his head in the direction of 
the long line of hotels. " Which is it ?" he said, look- 
ing up and down the dusky promenade ; "I can't make 
out the names by the lamplight." 

" It is there, just opposite the Conversationhaus," 
said Lidderdale. " Most of the windows are dark, you 
see ; I suppose people have gone to bed. But if they 
were not, I couldn't tell you which is Miss Craven's 
window. That, however, only leaves a wider range to 
the imagination." 

" I suppose you are laughing at me," said the young 
man, reddening a little, but with composure. '*I 
don't mind, however. If you have discovered that 
I'm in love with Miss Craven, and have come to Baden 
simply because she's here, that's no great discovery. I 
suppose one can't think of one person only, day and 
night, and not betray it in some way. That is the 
case with me ; I never think of any one but Miss Cra- 
ven." 

Lidderdale was silent. 

"However," the young man resumed, "I shouldn't 
go about saying that to every one; with you, I don't 
mind. Tou know them as well as I do ; you know 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 61 

Mrs. Bromley better than I do ; besides," he said, smil- 
ing, " you're a good sort of fellow to talk to ; one can say 
what one likes without fear of being misunderstood." 

" I'm much obliged to you," said Lidderdale. He 
looked about for a bench, and seating himself, struck 
a match, and lighted a cigarette. " You're perfectly 
right in supposing I am interested," he said, in a min- 
ute, "for that, I conclude, is the meaning of what you 
say. I know Mrs. Bromley pretty well ; I have seen 
Euphemia grow up since she was a child of twelve. 
Still, all that doesn't precisely explain why you have 
come to Baden. You can see Miss Craven, if you 
choose, during about nine months of the year at home ; 
why should you rush after her out here ?" 

" That's just it," said the young man ; " we are so 
used to seeing each other at home, I never feel that I 
get any further with her. But here, in a fresh place, 
it seemed to me I might make a fresh start, and say or 
do something — don't you know ? Besides, I wanted 
to see her," he concluded, simply. 

"I understand," said Lidderdale. He got up again, 
took a short turn or two, then came and stood be- 
fore his companion who had remained seated. " My 
dear fellow," he said, " if, as I suppose, you want to 
marry Miss Craven, why in Heaven's name don't you 
ask her ? There is nothing against the marriage that 
I am aware of." He had another speech in his mind 
also, and for a moment it had seemed to him a toss-up 
which he spoke. " Don't trouble me with your con- 
founded confidences," those other words ran, " I have 
views of my own, and I don't want to hear them. You 
are mistaken if you suppose I do." 



•2 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

"Ah, why don't I?" said young Severne, in answer 
to the words actually spoken. He also rose, and be- 
gan walking up and down again. "I'm afraid to ask 
her," he said. "I should think you might understand 
that ; I am not sure that she cares for me ; how can I 
be ? And then, though there is nothing against the 
marriage, in one sense — of course I know that — ^in an- 
other there is. So long as my father lives, you know, 
I am dependent on him. I don't mind it for myself; 
he and I are the best friends in the world ; but my 
wife might have tastes and wishes I couldn't at once 
gratify. And then — and then, there's Mrs. Bromley," 
he went on, rather nervously. " She doesn't like me, I 
believe, and sometimes I don't quite — I don't feel as if 
I altogether understood her. I don't believe she wants 
me to marry her daughter." 

Lidderdale, who had been listening attentively, took 
hold of the young man's arm at these last words with 
an air of kindness. 

"My dear boy," he said, with deliberation, "you are 
running away from nightmares. In the first place, 
when Euphemia Craven marries — especially, I believe 
I might say, if she were to marry you — she will have 
no wishes but those of her husband. As for Mrs. 
Bromley, she is anxious to see her daughter married. 
Euphemia's position at Bromley Court is not precisely 
what it would be if the squire were her father — that I 
imagine to be among her reasons. In any case, though 
I don't, of course, pretend to speak with authority, I 
believe you would encounter no opposition from her." 

His companion looked at him doubtfully. "Tou 
think not?" he said. "After all," he went on imme- 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 6S 

diately, " that is the first, not the last, word in the 
matter." 

"Ah, I'm not so sure about that. You know En 
phemia's devotion to her mother ; Mrs. Bromley's word 
might easily be the last word with her. I don't mean 
she would make a loveless marriage by her mother's 
orders — in any case, Mrs. Bromley would never order 
it; but what her mother said might very easily decide 
a wavering balance. Tou understand, of course, I'm 
speaking without the least knowledge of Miss Craven's 
sentiments." 

" Oh, I understand that," said the young man. " I 
can't say that I feel very hopeful," he added. 

" Ah, my dear fellow, who should feel hopeful, if 
not you?" said Lidderdale, standing still. "You're 
ungrateful to the fates to take that tone. Here you 
are, young, rich, unencumbered, in love with a beauti- 
ful young girl, who you have no reason to believe hates 
you, that alone should make you happy in the present, 
whatever the issue. Happy fellow !" Lidderdale went 
on, with a subdued ring in his voice. " To be five- 
and-twenty, to be standing here this summer night in 
the light of these stars, and to be in love! What bet- 
ter than this do you suppose life has to oflFer you ?" 

He turned on his heel without waiting for an an- 
swer, and walked on alone far into the vague lamplit 
darkness of the tree -shaded alleys. When he came 
back young Severne had disappeared, presumably with- 
in the door of his inn. Lidderdale had no desire to 
follow his example; he had never felt less inclina- 
tion to sleep, or for the enclosing walls of his chamber. 
He felt strangely excited, and the spaces of the sum- 



64 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

mer night wooed him, and its rustling silence. He 
continued to pace up and down, occasionally flinging 
himself onto a bench for a moment, and then resum- 
ing his walk. Now that his interview with young 
Severne was over, he began to ask himself whether he 
had been more of a hero or a fool, whether he had 
crudely thrown away a unique opportunity, or gener- 
ously renounced it in favor of a young rival, who, how- 
ever much in love, might have had but slender chances 
had he himself stood to oppose him. That was a 
thought to make his blood tingle, until he remembered 
that it was now, at any rate, too late. He had burned 
his ships too efifectually. After the encouragement he 
had given young Severne, after his words to Euphemia 
herself, it would be an impossible treachery to turn 
round and enter the lists on his own account. As for 
Euphemia's sentiments in the matter, Lidderdale con- 
templated them with an extreme gentleness, but with 
a sense that she was, in fact, still to be won. In any 
case, he regarded her as a young girl capable of pas- 
sionate tenderness rather than of passionate love; and 
— the rest being tolerably equal — she would, as he had 
intimated to her mother, be likely, he believed, to be- 
stow her affection on any one who should affirm a 
strong pull upon it, who should lay claim to it as the 
turning prize of his life. Could he have asserted any 
such claim as that ? Honestly, he declared to himself, 
he could not ; and, in making the confession, he ad- 
mitted that he had acted like neither a hero nor a 
fool, but simply like an honest man. And yet, as he 
paced up and down under the trees, he felt a profound 
sense of loss. An exquisite young girl to cherish, a 



▲N EXQUISITE FOOL. W 

passionate tenderness in return, lighting np the sweet- 
est eyes in the world — was that nothing to have flung 
away ? Lidderdale forgot for the moment to reverse 
the point of view, to contemplate that other side of 
the shield which he had the habit of turning so dex- 
terously in the various crises of his life. He only felt 
that some memories of the past, combined with the 
idiosyncrasy of his own nature, had robbed him of the 
rarest opportunity. 

It was gone forever, however. His thoughts re- 
verted to Helen, to that strange individuality that had 
of late years filled so large a place in his existence. It 
had never struck him as stranger than to-day, when he 
met her again, after some months of separation. Her 
talk, her singular outlook on life, her desire for Eu- 
phemia's marriage, that craving for flight, for immer- 
sion, so to speak, in a new world, which he had often 
attributed to her, but to which she had never before 
been willing to own, all seemed to point to some crisis, 
brought about by what means he could not divine. 
He had no idea she would do any of the things she 
had talked about; she had no money of her own, and 
she cared too much for what money could give her. 
But he saw that she was profoundly unhappy — more 
than unhappy, anxious, disquieted, as he had never 
known her to be before ; and his old suspicion of some 
dreary secret at the root of her life crossed his mind. 
After all, women had secrets — debts, compromising 
letters, rash pledges to old lovers. He did not, indeed, 
believe Helen to be in debt ; not because the squire 
was lavish in his allowance — ^that would have nothing 

to say to an extravagant woman — but because she bad 
5 



M AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

too orderly, too intelligent a mind. But he could im- 
agine other complications ; yes, they did not lie alto- 
gether outside his conception of her character. His 
mind glanced again over their interview that afternoon, 
up to the moment when it had been interrupted by the 
entrance of her visitor; it did not, however, occur to 
him, notwithstanding a certain emotion she had shown, 
to attach any importance to the appearance of the man 
of whom he had had a passing glimpse. He was quite 
accustomed to hear Helen qualify a visitor beforehand 
as the greatest bore in the world, and then meet him 
as though she had lived to welcome him ; it was one 
of the ways in which she showed her foreign breeding. 
He had often declared to her that he felt his audacity 
in accepting his own welcome as serious : how was he 
to know that she was not finding him also the greatest 
bore in the world ? He stood up for English sincerity 
on such occasions, and declared that if you were some- 
times frowned at, you at least knew when you were 
being smiled upon ; though, as he also admitted, the 
frowns were sometimes overdone, and the insincerity 
apt to topple over on the other side. However that 
might be, Helen's manner on such occasions had little 
significance for him one way or the other ; he had for- 
gotten it, indeed, on this occasion, till, as he walked up 
and down the silent and empty promenade, thinking 
now of her perplexities, now of the still admirable 
beauty that seemed to profit her so little in life, he per- 
ceived that the solitude of the night was no longer his. 
A form had made itself visible since he last turned 
his back on the little town, and, pipe in mouth, seemed 
bent on seeking the same mild tranquillity as himself. 



CHAPTER VII. 

If Lidderdale's thoughts had not before dwelt on 
Mrs. Bromley's visitor, they were forcibly recalled to 
him now, for, as he almost immediately perceived,Jie 
and the man before him were identical. The stranger 
had paused under a lamp, whose light showed his face 
and form with suflBcient clearness for recognition, and 
was engaged in fumbling in the pockets of the gray 
overcoat he still wore. As Lidderdale approached, he 
turned and accosted him. 

"Good -evening," he said, raising his hat slightly. 
" Could you favor me with a match ? I haven't one 
with me, I find." 

Lidderdale complied by handing him his own match- 
box, and waited while the other struck a light and 
applied it to his pipe. Illuminated by the lamp, he 
stood revealed as a man past middle age, lean-featured, 
with a large aquiline nose, and a mouth whose thin com- 
pression and downward curve — he wore neither beard 
nor mustache to hide it — seemed to indicate both irrita- 
bility and obstinacy. His eyes were better ; indeed, as 
Lidderdale had immediate occasion to note, they were 
his best feature ; though small and sad and dull in ex- 
pression, they had in them a more sympathetic gleam 
than was conveyed by the rest of his face, and softened 
its hard outline. The man might have a nasty temper, 
as the phrase goes, but a morQ impressionable mood, 
one felt, might lie behind. He bad the ^ir of a gen^ 



68 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

tleman, thongh of a rather rough and loosely -fitted 
one ; his garments were not of the newest fashion, and 
bore signs of use ; be had, in general, the look of a 
man who, literally and figuratively, concerns himself 
little about dress. As he finished lighting his pipe he 
accosted Lidderdale again. 

" You seem," he said, " to have the same fancy for 
nocturnal wandering that I have. I came out for a 
stroll, but expected to find that I had the place to 
myself." 

" Ah, well, that you immediately will have, so far as 
I am concerned," Lidderdale answered, good-humor- 
edly enough ; " I am about to return to my hotel, and 
will wish you good-night." 

He passed on, but the other, turning, proceeded to 
walk at his side. " Allow me to accompany you," he 
said, in his rather harsh voice, dragging his words a 
little as he spoke. His voice had a point of melancholy 
inr it, in tune with his face ; his accent was dull and 
somewhat monotonous. " I had the pleasure of meet- 
ing you this afternoon at Mrs. Bromley's," he went 
on, " but I am nevertheless under the necessity of 
introducing myself. My name is Bichard Craven ; 
yours, I am aware, is Lidderdale. I have the advan- 
tage of you there." 

Lidderdale stared. Mrs. Bromley had certainly not 
introduced the two to each other, and he was unable 
to conjecture a reason for this stranger thrusting his 
acquaintance upon him. He drew out his watch, and, 
glancing at it, murmured some words of acknowledg- 
ment and apology, and quickened his step a little. The 
other man, however, kept at his side. 



▲N EXQUISITE FOOL. 0d 

" If the hour were not so late," he said, " I should 
request the favor of ten minutes' conversation with 
you. Hang the hour," he immediately went on, in the 
same unimpassioned tones as before ; " ten o'clock, or 
two o'clock, what does it matter ? As often as not, I 
sit up all night; and to tell you the truth, it was seeing 
you that brought me here now. I was crossing the 
road on my way to my lodging when I recognized you, 
walking up and down. I know all about you, you 
know — that you are Mrs. Bromley's friend, and so on ; 

and, d n it, I said to myself, since the story is going 

to be told, there's one man shall hear it to-night, at 
any rate." 

Lidderdale stared again ; he began to wonder whether 
his companion were mad. And yet, taken in conjunc- 
tion with his previous thoughts, the words agitated him 
vaguely. 

" As my name is Craven, you may conclude I am 
some relation to Mrs. Bromley or her daughter," his 
companion went on. "I am. I am related pretty 
closely to both Mrs. Bromley and her daughter." 

"That is not inconceivable," said Lidderdale, in- 
wardly moved by the reference to Euphemia. " Mrs. 
Bromley has probably many relations with whom I 
am unacquainted." 

" No, no, not so many," said the other. He removed 
the pipe from his mouth with one hand, and thrust 
the other deep into his pocket. " Mrs. Bromley and 
Euphemia are my wife and daughter," he said. 

"Your whatf^ said Lidderdale, standing still. 
" What the devil do you mean ?" he went on in a mo- 
ment. " Are you mad ?" 



70 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

"Mad! Not the least in the world; I'm telling 
you the simple truth — true as the gospel, if you be- 
lieve that. Ask Mrs. Bromley — if you believe her." 

" Ask her what V^ said Lidderdale, frowning. " I 
don't even know what you're talking about, nor what 
possible interest you can imagine I have in you or 
your aflEairs. There is my hotel door ; you will allow 
me to wish you good-night." 

He made no movement to go, however. He con- 
tinued to gaze frowningly before him, detained by a 
confused sense that if Helen were in fact in any trou- 
ble, as her singular emotion that afternoon had already 
led him to suspect, and this man, whoever he might 
be, were in any way connected with it, he could proba- 
bly best serve her by hearing his story out. The 
stranger meanwhile replied to his last words. 

" Oh, it's easy to understand," he said ; " Mrs. Brom- 
ley's first husband was named Richard Craven, and, as 
you may have heard, died, or was supposed to have 
died, in Australia. He didn't die ; I am Richard Cra- 
ven, and Euphemia's father. It's a plain enough story, 
you see." 

"You will excuse me if I nevertheless do not believe 
a word of it," said Lidderdale. " I don't believe a 
word of it," he repeated in a moment. 

"Ah, well, you will in time," said the other. "I've 
nothing to gain by telling you a lie — you might as 
well understand that at once — nothing whatever." 

Lidderdale made no reply. True or false — and it 
was at once apparent to him that the story, however 
incredible, was not impossible — there was something 
odious in the mere connection of Helen's name with 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 71 

snch a situation. To have kicked the man o£E at once 
as a crude impostor would have best satisfied his own 
feeling and humor; but something in the stranger 
kept him back from any summary proceeding of the 
kind. He walked some fifty yards away, out of the 
line of hotels into a shadier recess of the lamplit 
alleys. 

" Let us get to the bottom of this," he said, abruptly, 
turning to the other man, whose lounging step had 
kept pace with his shorter one. " What do you mean 
by it ! What is it you want ?" 

" What I want ! What I want is simple enough," 
answered his companion. There was a bench close 
by, under a tree, and dropping onto it, he tool^ ofi his 
hat and passed his hand through his hair. ^^ I'm tell- 
ing you the truth," he said, in a reasonable tone. ^^ As 
I explained just now, I have nothing to gain by tell- 
ing you a lie — nothing at all." 

"You are not telling me this precious story for 
nothing, I presume," said Lidderdale, with some heat ; 
" and you come a little late in the day for credence ; 
you might see that for yourself, I should think. You 
say you are Richard Craven, Mrs. Bromley's first hus- 
band. I know nothing whatever about Mrs. Bromley's 
first husband; you are mistaken if you suppose I do; but 
granting — ^granting you are the man you give yourself 
out to be, how do you explain your silence all these 
years, when Mrs. Bromley and every one believed you 
to be dead ?" 

" Oh, my silence 1" said the other. " Mrs. Bromley's 
first husband went to Australia and died there," he 
went on. " Yes, that was the commion report. Well, he 



t9 AN EXQUISITE 700L. 

didn't die, since I am the man. I had joined an expe- 
dition to the interior, and was left for dead or dying 
of a fever at an outlying shepherd's hut. Communi- 
cation wasn't easy in those days; it was months be- 
fore I recovered and could make my way to the coast, 
and meanwhile the report of my death had got abroad ; 
in fact, the men who abandoned me had found their 
interest in spreading it. The story's quite simple, you 
see ; it is not even original. The same sort of thing 
has happened to half a hundred men before." 

"Granted — granted," said Lidderdale; "granted, I 
mean, that the story were true — I don't believe a 
word of it, you know — all that must have happened 
seventeen years or so ago. It doesn't explain — " 

"It doesn't explain why I have come back now! 
Well, I suppose a man may get tired of being dead 
after a time. He may reflect that he has a wife and 
daughter on the other side of the world, and that if 
he wishes to see anything of them it is time that he 
should think about it. That is the sort of reflection, 
you know, that comes upon one when one is turned 
fifty years old." 

Lidderdale was silent. In a moment his companion 
spoke again. " That doesn't seem to you a sufficient 
explanation !" he said. 

" Oh, d n your explanations," replied Lidderdale, 

with extreme irritation. "Tou must excuse me if I 
am only moderately interested in your feelings. I 
was thinking, if there were a grain of truth in the 
story, of the shock it would be to your unhappy wife." 

The stranger took up his hat that lay on the bench 
beside him and put it on his head. " She's had time 



▲N EXQUISITE FOOL. 7S 

to get over the shock," he said then, dryly. "She's 
known the truth this fifteen years past.*' 

" Known it !" said Lidderdale. 

"Known it, sir; known it as well as I've known it 
myself. I came back to England after I reached Mel- 
bourne with no more delay than the voyage, which 
was a somewhat longer one in those days than it is 
now, compelled me to ; and I found my wife married 
the month before to Mr. Bromley. The news of my 
death had reached her, and she had mourned me bare- 
ly six mouths. Known it ! Why, you saw me in her 
sitting-room to-day." 

He got up with the last words, and began to walk 
up and down the path, his slouching gray overcoat 
crossing and recrossing the lines of lamplight that fell 
among the trees. Lidderdale flung himself on the 
bench in. his turn ; he had no heart to reply; a horri- 
ble, a sickening suspicion that the story might be true 
was gaining upon him. Presently his companion 
stopped in front of him. 

" Tou think me a bad sort of fellow, I dare say," he 
said. " I am not a bad sort of fellow ; I am simply a 
man whose life has been damnably spoiled. I haven't 
a patient temper naturally, but I have taken unheard- 
of things as piatiently as a saint. Tou know how I 
first made my wife's acquaintance ? No ? It's a story 
of twenty years back now ; perhaps my wife herself 
has forgotten it. I am a doctor by profession, and I 
attended her father in his last illness ; he was the best 
and finest gentleman I ever knew — my wife tells me 
my daughter Euphemia resembles him ; she means by 
that, I'm not worthy of her — he died, however, and 



74 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

his daughter was left without a penny, as one says. I 
was in love with her; you'll easily understand that. 
You know what she is now ; you can imagine, per- 
haps, what she was at eighteen. I can see her now — 
I've not had so many later impressions to efEace that 
earlier one — and I swear to you she had an air, a tread, 
a way of moving and carrying herself, a light in her 
eyes, a smile when she chose to smile — I talk of her, 
you see, as if she had died in her youth ; a man who 
has seen his wife only three times in eighteen years 
may be allowed to talk of her in that way. You may 
suppose I didn't consider a little^ountry doctor like 
myself a splendid match for such a creature as that. 
I did not. On the other hand, she had nothing what- 
ever, and I had very pretty expectations, as such things 
go ; my uncle, that is to say, who was rich and unmar- 
ried, and not far from seventy, had made his will in 
my favor, and she knew it. The will, it might be sup- 
posed, would be all the more to the purpose that he 
never gave me a shilling to help me on while he was 
alive. However that might be, she, at any rate, had 
nothing — and she was unhappy. She cared for her 
father ; I'm not sure she has ever in her life cared for 
any one else." 

" Well, in short, you were married," said Lidderdale, 
with impatience. This echo of an opinion he had 
himself at times entertained of Helen irritated him in- 
expressibly. He got up, but immediately threw him- 
self onto the bench again. ^^I understand that you 
were married," he said. 

"Oh yes, we were married," the other answered. 
He stood silent for a minute in front of Lidderdale, 



AN EXQUISITB FOOL. t5 

his hands thrust deep in his pockets. ^^ Hang it, hang 
it/' he said, '^ how it all comes back to me — and most 
likely it has no interest for you. Well, no matter," 
without waiting for Lidderdale's reply, which was not 
immediate; ^^I'll make the story as short as I can. 
We married; some six or eight months later it oc- 
curred to my uncle, at sixty-seven, to get married also, 
and in due course a boy was born, whose name took 
the place of mine in the will. Don't imagine our life 
was a very happy one after that ; it was not for that 
my wife had married me. I quite saw her point of 
view — I understood her pretty well, you know, by that 

time — and, d n it, sir, there were times when it was 

my point of view also. A lovely creature like that 
tied for life to a village doctor. There was another 
point of view I might have taken under other circum- 
stances: two young people, with each other to care 
for, a charming child — Euphemia was nearly a year 
old then — and, after all, enough to live upon in mod- 
erate comfort from one day to another. That, I say, 
was another point of view, but not one to be taken 
with a wife like mine. I had drawn my prize, and it 
was an expensive one; and if I had counted the cost 
beforehand, as in a sense I had, I had not counted on 
the money failing me when the moment came to pay 
it. It wasn't that my wife moped and let things go. 
She was too clever, and had too much sense for that. 
She was neve!* idle for a moment ; she made her own 
gowns, she embroidered her chairs; as often as not 
she cooked the dinner. She has an extraordinary ca- 
pacity; I never knew any one like her. As to our 
disappointment, she never said a single word about it, 



70 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

until I tried one day to break the silence on my side. 
Then she turned on me. ' Don't speak to me/ she 
said, ' or you may oblige me to tell you that I hate 
you ;' and with that she went out of the room. You 
know my wife, and perhaps you can imagine how she 
said it ; yes, I am sure you can imagine it. And yet, 
I may tell you frankly, her accent, the look in her 
eyes, gave me a shock as if I had run my head against 
a wall when I had expected to find an open door. I 
don't know that I am made of very soft stuff myself, 
but I never imagined anything so hard as that. Hard 
— hard," he repeated ; " hard is not the word to ex- 
press it. Take a living wonaan in your arms to em- 
brace her, and find an image of bronze, of marble, a 
thing that you may curse and trample upon in your 
passion at the horrible chill it strikes to your soul 
without leaving so much as a finger-print to show that 
you have touched it. There you have my wife." 

"Good God!" said Lidderdale, "how bitter you are 
— and how unjust." 

" Oh, you say that at your ease," replied his com- 
panion. He had spoken, in fact, with extraordinary 
bitterness; he took off his hat, wiped his forehead, 
and stood for a moment staring up at the stars. " You 
say that at your ease," he repeated, looking sombrely 
at Lidderdale ; " but when a man has half the life 
crushed out of his heart and soul, it is something less 
than ease that he feels. I didn't trample upon my 
wife, I need hardly say; after all, one doesn't trample 
upon marble. I don't remember that I even reproach- 
ed her. I only told her the next day, what was the 
fact, that I had heard from a man I knew that there 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 77 

was a good opening, a better opening than I was likely 
to find in England, for a doctor in Melbourne, and 
asked her what she thought of our moving out there. 
I could go first, and she and the child could follow, if 
the matter really looked as good as it promised. I 
never expected her to entertain the idea for a moment, 
but something in it took her fancy, or perhaps it was 
only the prospect of being rid of me for a time. At 
any rate, I went. I found the opening I had hoped 
for already filled up, but I was invited to join an ex- 
pedition into the interior. Well^ there was another 
chance, I thought — and it ended as I have told you. 
When a run of ill-luck sets in, it doesn't leave off in a 
hurry; we all know that. I can assure you that I 
didn't look forward to unfolding the report I had to 
take to England in my pocket. I seemed to see be- 
forehand how my wife would look when I dangled an 
empty purse before her eyes, and said : I went to find 
our fortune, and I have brought back this. But nat- 
urally I had to go. I had left her a sum of money 
to use during my absence, but I had horrible visions 
of its having come to an end, and of her and the child 
being in poverty and distress. In short, I took the 
first steamer to England. I needn't have hurried my- 
self; my wife was very well provided for, as you 
know," 

" Your wife believed that you were dead," broke in 
Lidderdale. He no longer doubted the truth of the 
story ; it had the ring of veracity, and it explained all 
that had ever perplexed him in Helen. 

" Oh yes, she believed it. She was not in a scepti- 
cal mood when the news arrived ; that I can very well 



78 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

understand. Of course I ^new that some such report 
might have reached her. In Melbourne I found that 
the few people I had known there supposed me dead ; 
and when I learned, as I did accidentally before I ar- 
rived at home, that she was married again, I under- 
stood how the horrible complication in which she had 
set herself and me had come about. Perhaps — I don't 
know — I might have gone away again, leaving her ig- 
norant of my existence ; my existence seemed worth 
very little to me just then, and hers not much more — 
but I had written to her on the voyage and posted the 
letter immediately on landing ; I knew she would 
have received that. When I heard the — the news, I 
wrote to her again. She replied by appointing a place 
of meeting ; it was at an inn in a little country town 
ten miles the other side of Bromley Court, quite away 
from our own part of the country. I went down 
there, and the interview took place. It was a queer 
one, you may take my word for that. The result was 
that I telegraphed for a berth in a ship sailing for 
Sydney in three days, and was lucky enough to secure 
it. My wife didn't make me a scene; so far I was 
grateful to her. She was agitated, I could see; but 
we argued the matter quite reasonably for a long time. 
With my empty pockets I hadn't many arguments on 
my side that could appeal to her. She declared to me 
that in marrying again she had gained everything she 
had ever wished for, and secured the best possible ed- 
ucation and future position for our child — she touched 
me there; what could I have done for my little Eu- 
phemia? I had parted with my English connection, 
and had nothing before me for some time to come but 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 70 

a struggle against poverty. Finally, my wife Solemnly 
swore to me that if I persisted in bringing what she 
called a dreadful scandal on her name, she and the 
child would disappear utterly, and I should never see 
nor hear of them again. I don't know what she would 
have done with herself, but I believed her, and gave 
in. Yes, I gave in. As for the morality of the ques- 
tion, if you want to settle that, you must discuss it 
with my wife." 

He paused and looked down on Lidderdale, who sat 
silently leaning forward, his elbows on his knees, his 
chin resting on his hands. " You wonder, I dare say, 
why I'm telling you all this," Craven said in a moment. 

" Lord, no," said Lidderdale, without moving. " I 
never wonder at anything. Do go on." 

His companion gave a short laugh. " You say that 
after a fashion — ^however, it's a different thing, let me 
tell you, to live through such a story, and to give the 
history of it some sixteen years later. I've never 
mentioned it to a living soul but one — an old friend 
in my native place whom I knew I could trust — since 
the day I parted with my wife ; and this afternoon I 
swore I would tell it all to the first person to whom it 
would appeal. I'm afraid you think it no very good- 
fortune that threw you in my way ! But if I tell it 
now I have my reasons; and after being silent all 
these years, you may suppose I don't speak now be- 
cause I can't hold my tongue. I gave in to my wife — 
that is why I have been silent. I agreed to go back 
to Australia, leaving her to enjoy her life as she fan- 
cied it ; but I made one condition — that I should see 
my little girl before I went. It was not a hard con- 



80 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

dition, yt)u'll admit. A father who is giving np his 
child might be allowed to wish it good-bye ; and if I 
had anticipated no great pleasure from meeting her 
mother on my return home — it was not in the nature 
of things I should — I had thought a great deal of 
Euphemia. She would be three years old by the time 
I saw her again. I could fancy — but no matter what 
I fancied. At any rate, my wife agreed to my con- 
dition. She couldn't bring her to the inn where we 
had met, she said ; it might attract attention if she 
came again with the child ; but if I would bfe at a cer- 
tain out-of-the-way spot she described in the park at 
Bromley Court, she would be there walking with 
Euphemia, and I should see her. I was punctual to 
my appointment, you may be sure; but she never 
came. I hung about all that day, and all the next. 
After that I was obliged to go, or I should have for- 
feited my passage. But do you think I have ever for- 
given my wife ? Never, never — by the Lord, never ! 
I wrote her as much, and she knows it ; she knows 
that in all these years I have never, as it were, had 
my eye off her; that I was resolved to be even with 
her some day, though I have let her alone until now." 

" That is horrible," said Lidderdale. He threw him- 
self back on the bench, clasping his hands behind his 
head, and sat staring before him for a while. " I fol- 
low you so far," he said at last. " What I don't under- 
stand is, that having left your wife alone, as you say, 
for sixteen years, you should come back now to molest 
her." 

His companion looked down on the ground, and 
stood silent. " Yes, yes," he said, presently, " that 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. SI 

needs explanation, that is more complicated. In the 
first place, however, when one is turned fifty, the 
world, I may tell yon, takes a new aspect to a man. 
He has not ranch more, perhaps, to expect of life, but 
he has a number of years yet, it may be, in which to 
be happy or miserable. He would prefer, if he could, 
to be happy. Do you suppose Ijenjoyed being expa- 
triated, being driven alone and a stranger to the other 
side of the world ? Yon are my wife's friend ; you 
have been listening to my story, very probably with an 
eye on her point of view; but I have my own point of 
view, I can assure you, and the moment has come when 
it weighs heavier with me than hers. At thirty-four 
life still seems long before one, its chances in one's 
favor still seem infinite; but at fifty one has to run 
before one's chances and take them in hand one's self, if 
one wishes them to help one. When I first went out 
to Australia I had no intention of exiling myself there 
forever; I meant to make money enough to live upon 
in ease, and then to return to England. Twenty 
things might happen — my wife might die, Bromley 
might die — there were no end to the changes ten or 
fifteen years might bring about. That is what I 
thought when I started, and it gave me cpurage to go 
on; my life had been spoiled, but I would patch it up. 
I made my money, partly by my profession, partly in 
other ways. No change I may have reckoned upon 
has taken place, but sixteen years have changed me — 
and besides there have been other things." He paused. 
" If — ^if my little daughter out there had lived " — he 
pansed again. 

" Tour daughter ?" said Lidderdale. 
6 



84 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

and these occupied him more than any snfEering on the 
part of the man before him. " What," he said at last, 
" do you propose to do ?" 

His companion's answer was not immediately ready ; 
he continued to smoke in silence for a few minutes be- 
fore replying. " I have proposed to do several things," 
he said then ; " the first of them, naturally, was to see my 
wife. I followed her to Baden when I heard that she 
was here, and we have met twice. She is exceedingly 
averse, as I expected, to my views in regard to Euphe- 
mia; she expressed herself, at first, in fact, with some 
violence in the matter, affirming that, with her will, 
Eiiphemia and I should never meet. Finally, as we 
neither of us wished to drive matters to an extremity 
— you are mistaken if you think I want to make a 
public scandal — I even proposed to my wife to pass 
with the world as Euphemia's uncle ; we agreed on a 
compromise. She promised I should see Euphemia, if 
I consented on this first occasion not to make myself 
known to her in any way ; she would send her, that is 
to say, on an errand to the photographer's, where I 
have rooms ; I could see her, and judge for myself — 
that was how she put it — how far she and I were likely 
to suit as father and daughter. What she meant by 
that, I don't know — nothing, probably ; but, at any 
rate, I consented. Yes, I should at least see and 
judge for myself what my girl is like; at present, I 
shouldn't even recognize her if I were to meet her in 
the street. My wife named an hour this afternoon, 
and r believed her — I believed her as I had believed 
her sixteen years ago. I waited for two hours, and 
then I came to her hotel as you saw. It matters little 



AN BXQUISITE FOOL. 86 

what she said ; she couldn't trust me, she wouldn't ; 
I should betray myself. In short, I swore when I left 
her that I would be played with no longer, that I would 
tell my story to the first person I met. That was your- 
self. The next person I tell, it to will be my daughter." 

" For Heaven's sake, (Jon't do that," said Lidderdale 
with energy. " For myself," he continued, "you could 
not, in one sense, have found a better person. If, in a 
calmer moment, you repent having confided a misera- 
ble secret in your life to a man who is a stranger to 
you, you may rest contented that so far as the world is 
concerned it is the same as if it had not been told. 
But your daughter is one of the sweetest creatures 
God ever made ; to drag her into this hideous web of 
sin and misery would be nothing less than a crime." 

"What do you expect to gain by it?" Lidderdale 
went on, as his companion made no answer. " It is a 
hard thing to say, but the knowledge of your existence 
now can bring only pain and sorrow to your daughter. 
I'm far from saying it is not a pain she may have to 
bear ; I am not in the least prepared to formulate an 
opinion as to the solution of the dismal tangle in 
which three lives at least, as well as your own, are in- 
volved. But if the knowledge must come to her, let it 
come as gently as possible. She is extremely attached 
to her mother ; imagine the effect such a story as yours 
would have upon her." 

" Oh, I would be gentle with her," said Craven. He 
took a turn up and down the path, then returning, 
stood looking down on Lidderdale with hard and seri- 
ous eyes. "My wife tells me she is engaged to be 
married," he said. " Is that true t" 



88 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

^^ Yes." He stood silent a while, and Lidderdale, 
in the uncertain lamplight, thought he saw the glim- 
mer of tears in his eyes. ^' She was my daughter, at 
any rate," he went on, >^' and if her mother was not 
legally my wife, at least the poor thing never knew it. 
Oh, I don't pretend to more virtue than another ; and I 
am not a man who can sit alone, either to eat out or to 
nourish my heart in solitude. I considered that I had 
a right to make myself a home out there, and I made 
it; and at least I wronged no one by the deed. The 
poor girl who married me never had a suspicion of the 
truth ; I believe I made her happy ; and my daughter 
— well, she made me happy." 

He felt again in his pockets, found a match-box this 
time, and struck a light, as if to rekindle the pipe he 
held in his hand, then threw it on the ground and set 
his heel on it. "They died of diphtheria within three 
days of each other," he said. " My little girl was just 
thirteen." 

He struck another match, relighted his pipe, and 
stood smoking a while in silence. Lidderdale was the 
first to speak again. 

" That broke up your life," he said. " Yes, I can 
understand that." 

" Broke it up ? That would have been a trifle. It 
exasperated me, it brought me to bay, it made me des- 
perate for the first time. I took a horror of my exist- 
ence out there ; what had I been doing all these years ? 
I had thrown up every right I had in life ; here I was 
at fifty, with my chances gone, nothing left to me but 
what I could seize ; and all these years there had my 
wife been sitting at home in England, enjoying wealth, 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 88 

position, luxury, everything at my expense. I had my 
rights, too — that was what I began to tell myself. It 
was pretty late to begin, you will say — and, in fact, if 
my little girl and her mother had lived, perhaps I 
should never have told myself so at all. But when 
they went, it was as if a wall had crashed down and 
left me staring. There are moments when a man feels 
the primitive elements of life; I felt them then. Don't 
imagine I had forgotten my wife all this time ; I kept 
an eye upon her, as I have said ; occasionally I wrote 
to her. She never answered my letters; there was 
nothing in them to answer ; I wrote because I had 
never forgiven her. By the Lord, no. When I took 
ship to England, however, it was chiefly of Euphemia 
that I was thinking. I have never seen her since she 
was a year old, and she at least belongs to me. Let 
her mother continue to enjoy her life after her own 
fashion ; but let me at least have my daughter." 

He spoke these last words with more obvious ex- 
citement than he had yet shown. Lidderdale listened 
attentively with a sense that they had at last reached 
the point to which this long and disastrous history had 
been leading up, the point for which he had been 
waiting. To say that he felt no sympathy with the 
man who had so strangely made him his confidant 
would be false. He felt an extreme sympathy with 
him. Assuming the story to be true, his life had been 
broken, as he said, through no fault of his own ; hardly, 
in the first instance, through any fault of Helen's, 
^one the less, he had the sense of being retained, as it 
were, on Helen's side ; he felt that the story still held 
tragic possibilities beyond any that had gone before, 



84 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

and these occupied him more than any suffering on the 
part of the man before him. " What," he said at last, 
" do you propose to do ?" 

His companion's answer was not immediately ready ; 
he continued to smoke in silence for a few minutes be- 
fore replying. " I have proposed to do several things," 
he said then ; "the first of them, naturally, was to see my 
wife. I followed her to Baden when I heard that she 
was here, and we have met twice. She is exceedingly 
averse, as I expected, to my views in regard to Euphe- 
mia; she expressed herself, at first, in fact, with some 
violence in the matter, affirming that, with her will, 
Enphemia and I should never meet. Finally, as we 
neither of us wished to drive matters to an extremity 
— you are mistaken if you think I want to make a 
public scandal — ^I even proposed to my wife to pass 
with the world as Euphemia's uncle ; we agreed on a 
compromise. She promised I should see Euphemia, if 
I consented on this first occasion not to make myself 
known to her in any way ; she would send her, that is 
to say, on an errand to the photographer's, where I 
have rooms ; I could see her, and judge for myself — 
that was how she put it — how far she and I were likely 
to suit as father and daughter. What she meant by 
that, I don't know — nothing, probably ; but, at any 
rate, I consented. Yes, I should at least see and 
judge for myself what my girl is like; at present, I 
shouldn't even recognize her if I were to meet her in 
the street. My wife named an hour this afternoon, 
and r believed her — I believed her as I had believed 
her sixteen years ago. I waited for two hours, and 
then I came to her hotel as you saw. It matters little 



AN BXQUISITE FOOL. 86 

what she said ; she couldn't trust me, she wouldn't ; 
I should betray myself. In short, I swore when I left 
her that I would be played with no longer, that I would 
tell my story to the first person I met. That was your- 
self. The next person I tell.it to will be my daughter." 

" For Heaven's sake, (Jon't do that," said Lidderdale 
with energy. " For myself," he continued, "you could 
not, in one sense, have found a better person. If, in a 
calmer moment, you repent having confided a misera- 
ble secret in your life to a man who is a stranger to 
you, you may rest contented that so far as the world is 
concerned it is the same as if it had not been told. 
But your daughter is one of the sweetest creatures 
God ever made ; to drag her into this hideous web of 
sin and misery would be nothing less than a crime." 

"What do you expect to gain by it?" Lidderdale 
went on, as his companion made no answer. " It is a 
hard thing to say, but the knowledge of your existence 
now can bring only pain and sorrow to your daughter. 
I'm far from saying it is not a pain she may have to 
bear ; I am not in the least prepared to formulate an 
opinion as to the solution of the dismal tangle in 
which three lives at least, as well as your own, are in- 
volved. But if the knowledge must come to her, let it 
come as gently as possible. She is extremely attached 
to her mother ; imagine the effect such a story as yours 
would have upon her." 

" Oh, I would be gentle with her," said Craven. He 
took a turn up and down the path, then returning, 
stood looking down on Lidderdale with hard and seri- 
ous eyes. "My wife tells me she is engaged to be 
married," he said. " Is that true t" 



86 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

" Do yon expect me to be better informed on sneh a 
point than her mother ?" replied Lidderdale. 

" You might easily be more truthful. No, sir," he 
went on, after a pause, " all that doesn't count. You 
ask me what I should gain. I should gain this, that 
the woman who spoiled my life, and has twice played 
me a fool's game, would learn that it may be played 
once too often. Let her shuffle the cards afterwards as 
she pleases. 

He turned on his heel, and walking away, disap- 
peared in the darkness as abruptly as he had appeared. 
Lidderdale started up to follow him, but desisting, 
threw himself back on the bench once more. Long he 
sat there, lost in dark and perplexed thought. At last 
he rose and began pacing the long alleys again. A 
slender moon shone through the trees, and cast his rest- 
less lonely shadow on the grassy bank that bordered 
the path. The grass was full of little white flowers 
that showed vaguely in the thin light ; for some reason 
they reminded him of Euphemia. Presently the moon- 
light paled ; the August sky had begun to redden when 
Lidderdale at last sought his hotel and turned the key 
of his room. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

Though Lidderdale had not retired to rest till the 
niglit was over, he was abroad again in the early morn- 
ing. In truth, he conld not sleep; the story he had 
heard disturbed him to a degree and in a measure that 
made repose impossible. In the clearer morning hours 
he tried to doubt the story, and found that impossible 
also; his informant's manner had left no room for 
questioning his veracity ; he could have no motive in 
lying; and, besides, it explained Helen herself too well. 
He understood now all that had perplexed him in her 
life ; no, he had not been mistaken ; a disastrous secret 
had dogged and hampered her all these years. Poor 
Helen! Poor thing! Lidderdale had never felt so 
tenderly towards her before. And yet it was not as a 
woman with a terrible deception on her conscience, 
from which she lacked either the power or the courage 
to clear herself, that she presented herself to him ; that 
would have been tragic enough, but it was not the 
aspect under which he most plainly saw her. He did 
not believe that the guilty side of the situation had 
oppressed her greatly. He had long since seen in her 
a woman who would imperatively claim the right to 
be a law to herself ; he could imagine her, in any case, 
justifying herself (should she ever feel the need to do 
so) by a hundred arguments and sophistries; he was 
not far from justifying her himself. The beginning 
had been so involuntary ; the catastrophe would have 



68 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

been so intolerable. But that the catastrophe should 
have been simply postponed, to hang as a threat 
through half a lifetime — that was a position calculated 
to drive a sensitive woman mad. He wondered how 
she had supported life as she had done; he remem- 
bered how she had once told him she had a terror of 
it; he could understand that now. A vague and form- 
less terror, very likely, but a continued sense that 
safety lay best in quiescence ; that any rash movement 
on her part might, even from the other side of the 
world, bring down that toppling stone. It must have 
been horrible! And what was to be done now? That 
was the question that uneasily occupied Lidderdale 
through three or four hours of broken slumber, and 
confronted him when he awoke. It occupied him the 
more that he had the sentiment that as Helen's friend, 
as almost sole possessor of her secret, it lay with him 
to play the part of mentor, of counsellor, bringing a 
wise and clear-sighted judgment to help her in her 
need; and he recognized again — he had so often rec- 
ognized it before — that he had to pay the penalty of a 
sympathetic vision of the various sides of a situation 
by a particular difficulty in determining the best course 
in regard to it. He hated uncertainty ; and yet uncer- 
tainty in this form had so often hung upon his action. 
To get hold of Richard Craven and induce him to 
keep silence for the present, at any rate, was the most 
feasible solution that presented itself to him. It was 
not the moral solution, he was aware; but he could, as 
a fact, as little conceive Helen acquiescing in the moral 
solution as he could conceive himself preaching it to 
her. What did he know about it? she might perti- 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 89 

nently reply. And, in truth, anything he could imag- 
ine might very reasonably fall short of the real thing ; 
though, after all, he could imagine a good deal ; he 
almost wished he could not. That mingled pity and 
tenderness for the woman whose friendship he had 
greatly valued, was giving him one of the worst hours 
of his life. 

He got up at last and went out. Baden is awake 
and astir at an early hour in the summer mornings, 
and Lidderdale found the leafy alleys already filling 
with voices and movement. He turned, like every 
one else, towards the gardens of the Conversationhaus, 
thinking he would get a cup of coffee at the restaurant ; 
but his attention was diverted as he passed through 
the gate into the verdant enclosure by the sight of 
Euphemia at a little distance, accompanied by her 
maid. She was, like himself, a disinterested spectator 
of the procession of water-drinkers, and seated on one 
of the chairs set in rows in the neighborhood of the 
kiosk, was listening to the opening strains of the 
band. To say the truth, notwithstanding his words of 
the previous night, Lidderdale until now had thought 
much less of Euphemia than of her mother; in all 
this miserable business it seemed to concern Mrs. 
Bromley so much more intimately. But the impres- 
sion renewed itself now with a very sensible edge, of 
what suffering the knowledge must inevitably bring 
to the young girl who was so innocent of all share in 
it. He would have done much to spare Euphemia 
snflEeriug. She turned her face towards him at that mo- 
ment, and he went up to her. The band was playing 
a solemn and beautiful choral, and Euphemia, as Lid- 



I 



go AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

derdale approached, did not speak ; she simply moved 
the white skirt of her dress a little that he might sit 
down beside her, and handed him a programme of the 
raasic that she held. He continued to study it in si- 
lence for a moment, after the orchestra had ceased 
playing. 

"It is strange," he said then, "how the title of this 
choral, ' Mir nach, spricht Christus,' seems to set one in 
the heart of Christianity in its stateliest and most im- 
aginative moment. It is the word * Christus,' I sup- 
pose; it seems to build up round one the light and 
gloom of some great mediaeval cathedral. ^ Mir nach, 
spricht Jesu,' would convey quite a different senti- 
ment." 

Euphemia looked at him as if she did not quite 
follow his meaning, and he immediately reflected on 
his stupidity, in speaking a language that might seem 
strange to her. In a moment she said, 

" I like the custom they have here of beginning the 
morning with a hymn, like a prayer for all these poor 
sick people." 

" Ah, yes," said Lidderdale, " a prayer for sick peo- 
ple is always in season, whether they are sick in body 
or soul." 

His tone made Euphemia turn to him again. He 
was looking extremely jaded and pale, and she re- 
marked on it. 

" You are tired, are you not ?" she said. " You look 
tired." 

" Do I ?" said Lidderdale. "Well, yes, I feel rather 
tired. I was up late last night ; I couldn't sleep. It 
is a bad compliment I cannot return/' he went on. 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 91 

smiling. " You dress always in white here, I see. I 
like that. It is fresh ; it suits you." 

^' Mamma likes it," Euphemia answered simply, and 
then sat silent again, listening to the band, engaged in 
livelier strains now than a moment before. Once or 
twice she glanced at her companion, then turned away 
her eyes again. There was a change — or Lidderdale 
fancied there was — ^in her manner towards him since 
the previous day. It was more serious, less childish 
than he had ever known it before ; more affectionate 
in a sense, and yet more distant. It was as if she had 
considered the situation he had made for her, and ac- 
quiesced; but in acquiescing had felt that they met 
now on more equal terms. Lidderdale was not in the 
least troubled by a sense of fatuity in supposing Eu- 
phemia to have been on the verge of a warmer senti- 
ment towards himself than he would have felt justified 
in accepting. He was too shrewd, too disinterested an 
observer of life not to be aware that nothing of that 
kind was impossible to a young girl, or indeed to wom- 
en in general. A good many women had been more 
or less in love with him ; it had become part of the 
business of his life to steer clear of complications. It 
is true that he had more than once made a mistake, 
out of which he had had to blunder as best he could ; 
he had been not far from giving unpardonable offence 
by what might have been justly regarded as an imper- 
tinence of over-caution. As a rule, however, his per- 
ceptions were singularly correct ; but with Euphemia, 
in any case, he felt himself on safe ground. No, he 
had no complications to fear with the young girl who 
sat beside him, so fresh, so delicate in her white morn- 



02 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

ing dress, with the slight reserve, the perfect candor 
he foand alike so exqnisite. He recognized again that 
hers was not a passionate nature ; that the man who 
should set himself in earnest to win her affections 
would be the man to succeed. He wished to Heaven 
young Severne would set about it at once ; he under- 
stood so well now her mother's anxiety to see her mar- 
ried, that had he not too effectually blocked his own 
way, he would have been ready — so he declared to 
himself — to marry her himself and shield her from 
any possible danger. It was too late for that now, 
however ; nor, indeed, could he in any direction see an 
inch before him in the strange labyrinth of perplexi- 
ties that Mrs. Bromley's action had woven about her- 
self and every one belonging to her. And yet, some- 
how, as he sat there, he seemed to see things under a 
new aspect, to imagine that moral solution that had 
seemed so impossible to him just now. It was as 
though some finer essence from the spirit of the young 
girl beside him had touched his spirit, and instructed 
him that even for her, suffering might not be the worst 
misfortune, that for Helen it might be the purifying 
fire. " You say that at your ease 1" He recalled these 
words of his companion of the night before, in the im- 
mediate return of his mind upon itself that was char- 
acteristic of him. Yes, it is easy to dole out to others 
the purifying suffering that only remotely touches 
one's self. 

All these thoughts passed through his mind as he 
sat at Euphemia's side. He hardly spoke at all ; he was, 
in fact, extremely tired, so tired that he presently gave 
up the attempt to think, and simply let himself go. 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 93 

He sat vaguely enjoying the music and the scene be- 
fore him : the scattered groups of people, the little 
English children running up and down the wide paths, 
the early sunshine on the flowers, and the grass and the 
trees and the forest-covered hills. Enphemia was si- 
lent also ; she had the habit generally of chattering a 
good deal when she was in his company ; but this 
morning she either respected his mood, or was not in 
a talking mood herself. She was the first, however, to 
speak, after a somewhat prolonged silence. 

"Can you tell me what time it is?" she said. "I 
have not my watch with me." 

Lidderdale consulted his own watch. " Are you in 
a hurry to go back to the hotel ?" he inquired. " It 
is not yet eight o'clock," 

"No, I can stay a little longer ; I should like to hear 
this overture. But the squire " — it was thus that she 
often designated her step-father — " likes me to give him 
his chocolate in the morning." 

They were silent again for a while, listening to the 
music. " How is the squire ?" Lidderdale said at last. 
"Is he better than when he left England?" 

"A little — ^yes, I think he is a little better. But he 
is very feeble, you know — not in mind," she added, 
quickly. 

"No, no, I never supposed he was feeble in mind," 
said Lidderdale, smiling a little. " He doesn't get out 
much ?" he went on. 

" Only in a bath-chair. At Homburg he went out 
every day, but there he was drinking the waters. I 
almost wish that he were here ; it is an occupation, it 
makes the time pass." She rose as she spoke. " He 



94 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

finds it rather dull at Baden," she continued, as they 
began to move slowly towards the gate, ^^ but he found 
it dull at Homburg, too ; you know he doesn't care 
much for music or scenery, and he dislikes a crowd of 
people. But mamma thought it was too soon to re- 
turn to Bromley Court, and so did the doctor at Hom- 
burg. So we came here for a change." 

"I see; that was wise," said Lidderdale, rather ab- 
sently. He had paused on their way down the line 
of booths that had just begun to display their gay 
treasures to the early sunshine, and stood looking about 
him. " I want to make you a present," he said, to 
Euphemia. 

" It will not be for the first time," she answered, 
with a sort of gentle gayety. 

"Nor for the last, I hope. What shall it be? 
Choose for yourself; if you have a fancy, name it." 

Euphemia glanced up and down the long row of 
shop-fronts. " 1 have a fancy," she said ; " I want a 
little Black Forest clock. I told mamma so, and she 
laughed at me ; but I do. I want one that strikes." 

"That is a very modest fancy," said Lidderdale; 
" happily it is easily gratified. Let us go and choose 
one." 

They made their way to a booth filled with the lit- 
tle wooden toys. Euphemia stood passively by, while 
Lidderdale turned over the contents of the shop in 
search of what he wanted. Presently Euphemia went 
to the door, and stood looking out. In a minute Lid- 
derdale followed her. 

" Look at this," he said. " Is this what you like ?" 

As he spoke he became aware that his companion 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. «6 

of the night before was standing on the opposite side 
of the road, studying Euphemia with an eye whose 
glance immediately afterwards sought Lidderdale's 
with an expression of extreme intelligence. For a 
moment he seemed disposed to cross over and accost 
them ; but if so, his intention changed. He raised his 
hat slightly, and walked away. Euphemia, meanwhile, 
quite unconscious, was examining her clock. 

'^ That is charming, that is just what I want," she 
said, delighted. ^^ I shall hang it under my picture of 
St. Ursula, and whenever it strikes I can think of 
you." 

" Ah, that will be the most charming part of it," I'e- 
plied Lidderdale, without the least consciousness of the 
words he was uttering. ^^ Excuse me one moment," 
he immediately added, " I have just seen a man I want 
to speak to;" and leaving the clock in her hands, he 
crossed the road in pursuit of Eichard Craven. Last 
night Craven had told him that he had never seen his 
daughter since she was a year old; but he had seen 
her now; he knew that he had seen her; and Lid- 
derdale reflected with sudden alarm that it was now 
in his power to waylay Euphemia at any moment and 
fulfil his threat of pouring his wretched history into 
her innocent and unexpectant ear. That was a catas- 
trophe to be averted at almost any price ; sooner than 
that should come about, Lidderdale was ready to pledge 
himself to induce Mrs. Bromley — no, that would be 
impossible — well, to induce her to permit him to di- 
vulge the matter himself to Euphemia; it would be 
less of a shock to the young girl. But when he looked 
for Craven he found that the man had disappeared ; 



ge AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

probably he had mixed himself up at once with the 
crowd gathered about the kiosk — he had turned in 
that direction — and thence made his way out of the 
gardens by one of the several gates. Lidderdale knew 
his face ; but he had no familiarity with his figure and 
gait to enable him to recognize him from a distance, 
and after a few minutes spent in fruitless search he 
returned to Euphemia. He found her where he had 
left her, standing in the sunshine at the open door of 
the shop, surrounded by a hundred carved and ticking 
clocks. She was looking oxit for his return. 

" A thousand apologies for keeping you waiting," 
he said. " This, then, is what we decide on ? Very 
well, it shall be sent to you at the hotel ; and now, I 
dare say, you are in a hurry to return there yourself." 

He gave some directions to the shopman, and left 
the booth at her side. " What are you going to do 
with yourself to-day?" he inquired in a moment, as 
they walked on together. "Tou go to this ball to- 
night, 1 know; but what do you do meanwhile?" 

"I have hardly thought about it — we do so little 
here," Euphemia replied. " In the morning I gener- 
ally sit with papa, and read to him or play backgam- 
mon, as he prefers; and in the afternoon I go out 
with him, or perhaps into the forest, as I did yester- 
day. But I don't suppose 1 shall do that to-day ; it is 
going to be very hot, I think, and mamma doesn't like 
me to tire myself beforehand when I am going out in 
the evening." 

" That is very wise of her," said Lidderdale ; "and I 
don't want you to tire yourself either, because, you 
know, we are to have a dance together. All that b^ 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 97 

ing the case, and as you have the day before you, I am 
going to be very bold and ask yon to do something 
for me. I am going to ask you to make me a copy of 
that sketch yon took yesterday." 

"Of that sketch!" said Enphemia, coloring a little. 
" But it is so bad," she immediately added. 

"^f^o, no, it is not at all so bad, and I should like a 
copy of it. I shall find a fine frame for it, and hang 
it up in my rooms in Paris. Only if you are good 
enough to take all that trouble, I believe you will have 
to give your time to it to-day ; for if I leave to-mor- 
row morning I shall want to take it with me." 

"Do you leave so soon — to-morrow?" said Euphe- 
mia. Then, without waiting for an answer : " But you 
can have the original," she said. " I will take it out 
of the book for you at once." 

"No, I don't want the original. Didn't I say some 
rude things about it ? Whenever 1 looked in that di 
rection I should have to remember how disagreeable I 
made myself ; that would never do. But I see the idea 
bores you; don't think of it any more; I oughtn't to 
have asked you." 

" That is a speech I shall not answer," said Enphe- 
mia, with more of her usual manner towards him than 
she had shown before that morning. " The only prop- 
er answer, indeed, would be to take you at your word. 
Instead of that, I shall shut myself up with my paint- 
box ; and when you get to Paris and open the parcel 
I shall give you this evening you will say : What could 
I be thinking of to ask for this horrible daub ?" 

"No, I shall not— I shall not," Lidderdale declared. 

" I shall think that there is some one in the world who 
7 



98 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

has cared to give me pleasure. I should like to know 
what better thought than that a dnll old bachelor can 
have to hang on his walls i Mind, however, that you 
do your best." He talked on, satisfied that he bad 
gained his object, that of giving Euphemia an occupa- 
tion that would keep her engaged in-doors for some 
hours, at any rate. Later in the day he would try to 
see Helen and warn her; or he might find Eichard 
Craven, and persuade him to a new attitude in the 
matter. To find Craven was, indeed, his dominant 
idea as he parted with Euphemia at the door of her 
hotel. 

r 



CHAPTER IX. 

But Lidderdale was unable to find Craven, though 
he spent the whole morning in the search for him, 
wandering about the little town and its immediate 
neighborhood in the hope of coming across him in one 
direction or another. His address in Baden he did not 
know, and hp was unwilling, except as a last resort, to 
apply for it to Mrs. Bromley : he remembered that she, 
as yet, knew npthing of his knowledge of her secret. 
He was in » hurry that she should know it. There 
were moments when he found it odious that he should 
have accepted the story at all on the simple word of a 
man he had never seen before, but the delay in finding 
Craven fevered him. The more he contemplated the 
situation the more tangled, the more hopeless, it seemed 
to become ; look at it as he would, he could see no pos- 
sible issue for the moment but that of persuading 
Richard Craven to silence, of inducing him to go back 
into the darkness that had held him during all these 
years. If he had wished to speak, he should have 
spoken fifteen years ago ; let him leave them at least 
breathing space now for consideration. The man might 
have been as ill-used as he. thought himself by Fate, or 
any other abstraction on which he chose to lay the 
blame; Lidderdale felt that with sufficient keenness. 
But it was not a side of the question on which he could 
afford to dwell ; his sympathies, as was natural, were 
engaged with Helen — even more, perhaps, with Eu- 




1()0 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

pliemia. It is true that, arguing in the other direction, 
he found it impossible to conceive that things could 
now go on as before. Sooner or later the shattering 
catastrophe must come; but whatever course he might 
have taken had the matter been vital to himself, Lid- 
derdale was not stoic enough to contemplate calmly 
a catastrophe so shattering, in fact, for his friends. 
" Give us time — give us time," he kept repeating to 
himself. Yes, her mother had been right ; Eupheraia 
once married, everything would be easier; half the 
complications, so far as she was concerned, would be 
smoothed away. 

He had gone up, in last resort, to the old castle, and 
as he was being driven down again to his hotel he de- 
termined to go to Helen immediately after lunch. He 
could have no further reserves with her; he must warn 
her for Enphemia's sake, and he would urge her to 
leave Baden without delay. The feeble state of the 
squire's health might present a difficulty, but he was 
not an obstinate invalid; he had of late years, indeed, 
had the air of submitting, with a sense of irony, to 
whatever his wife proposed ; and, considering how few 
demands she made on her own account, Lidderdale had 
measured by that the distance that the two had drifted 
apart. In any case, he had gathered from Euphemia 
that the old man found Baden rather dull, and imag- 
ined that he might make no serious objection to an im- 
mediate move. Helen would readily find some plausi- 
ble reason ; he might trust her, he felt, to do that. In 
the mean time he would learn from her where Eicliard 
Craven was lodging, and take measures on his own ac- 
count. In a choice of perplexities that was the best 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 101 

course he could think of. On arriving at his hotel he 
found a note from Mrs. Bromley awaiting him. 

"Did you, after all," it ran, "put your latest manu- 
script in your pocket, as I bade you ? I quite forgot 
to inquire yesterday. But if it is there, bring it round 
this afternoon. I shall be disengaged and alone after 
two o'clock, and to-day I will take care that we are not 
interrupted. — Helen." 

What a woman she was 1 Lidderdale reflected, as he 
read the little missive. She must be suffering tor- 
ments of anxiety — he could divine that from their 
conversation yesterday — but he felt she would rather 
die than make one sign to betray the truth. He looked 
at his watch ; it was half-past one. He swallowed a 
hasty luncheon, and made his way to Mrs. Bromley's 
hotel. 

He found her just as he had found her the previous 
day, seated at her embroidery frame by the long centre 
window. She did not look round as he was announced ; 
she merely held out her hand without turning her head, 
her other hand being engaged in some delicate manip- 
ulation of her work. 

^ " You are punctual," she said ; " that augurs well. 
The manuscript is a thick one, I hope." 

Lidderdale did not answer ; he simply dropped into 
the chair beside her and waited. He could not answer 
her in the same tone ; he had not a word to say. She 
also waited for a moment. 

"Well?" she said then, turning round with a smile. 

Her glance fell on Lidderdale's face, and her smile 
died away. She pushed back her chair with a certain 
violence, and sat confronting him. 



102 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

"You have heard something," she said. 

"Yes," said Lidderdale, with a heavy intonation, "I 
have heard something." 

" You have met—' 

"Last night. He found me out on the promenade, 
and told me a long history." 

"And you believed it?" 

" Ah, don't ask me — don't ask me," said Lidderdale, 
with something like a groan. He hardly knew what 
he said. 

" You believed it !" Helen repeated. She rose sud- 
denly, pushing aside her embroidery frame, and Lidder- 
dale instinctively rose also. Their eyes met for a mo- 
ment. Helen's fell ; a terrible, an overwhelming rush of 
blood dyed her face crimson. The moment was a horri- 
ble one to Lidderdale ; he would have given the world 
to avoid it. Well as he knew — he thought he knew 
— the woman before him, he had had no prevision of 
this. It was only a moment. Helen sank into her 
seat again, trying to check the trembling of her hands 
by locking them tightly together on her knees. 

" What you must think of me !" she murmured. 

"I think of you," said Lidderdale, dully, reseating 
himself and setting down his stick and hat, " as I have 
always thought — as one of the kindest, the most admi- 
rable of friends." 

She looked at him as if about to answer, but no 
words came. All at once she covered her face with 
her hands and fell into a passion of weeping. Her 
tears surprised, they, confounded, Lidderdale. He had 
always accredited her with a flame-like power of pas- 
sion, but he would have said beforehand that on the 



-5h^- 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 103 

emotional side her nature was too cold, too self-con- 
tained, for her not to confront any crisis without a 
sign of weakness. In a moment, before he had had 
time to speak, she rose again, with a movement of the 
hand to indicate that he should remain seated. 

" I will be back immediately," she said ; and, press- 
ing her handkerchief to her eyes, she left the room. 

Lidderdale remained alone. He felt strangely agi- 
tated by her agitation, by its fatal confirmation of the 
story he had heard ; and, after a minute, he also got 
up, and began wandering about with a certain restless- 
ness, looking at one thing and another. In her abrupt 
movements Helen had swept some skeins of embroid- 
ery silk from her work onto the floor. Lidderdale 
picked them up, smoothing them out with care, and re- 
placed them on the frame ; then stood staring vaguely 
out of the long window. His thoughts turned to En- 
phemia, seated, as he supposed, in some other room, 
busy over the little sketch he had demanded of her. 
Poor little sketch! Lidderdale never looked at it 
afterwards without a strange mingling of pain and 
compunction. The sweetest emotion in the world— 
that of pure and confiding friendship — had gone to 
inform its faltering lines and imperfect coloring ; and 
he had had so little to give in return. For the moment, 
however, he had only a passing thought to bestow on 
Euphemia; his concern was with her mother, with this 
dreary misery, threatening to strangle the peace of two 
or three people, for whom, after all, he cared more 
than for almost any one in the world. In ten minutes 
Mrs. Bromley came back and seated herself as before. 
She had regained her composure, but her eyes still 



104 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

showed signs of her recent weeping; and this trace of 
emotion — one he had never seen in her before — 
touched Lidderdale keenly. He was touched, too, by 
the fact that she showed so little resentment at his 
having listened and given credence to a story that af- 
fected her so disastrously ; she might so well have re- 
sented it. He had done so already, indeed, on her 
behalf. He hesitated to speak now ; he knew so little 
what to say ; it was she who broke a moment's em- 
barrassed silence. 

" You see — ^you understand now," she said, " why I 
wished you to marry Euphemia." 

" Ah, don't speak of that !" said Lidderdale, hastily. 
"It was impossible — ^you must see it was impossible." 

"You said so, I know," she answered, leaning back 
in her chair, and letting her hands fall in her lap ; " but 
it would have made — it would make many things 
easier to me." 

"Don't talk of it," said Lidderdale again. "It is 
too late now, at any rate. I have spoken to Euphemia 
about young Severne; I have spoken to him about 
Euphemia. If you had been more frank with me — 
but no ; in any case it couldn't have been." 

"More frank with you?" she said, raising her eye- 
brows slightly. "Did yon expect that / should tell 
you that wretched story ?" 

" I expected nothing," said Lidderdale, with some 
irritation. The sort of impersonal air with which she 
put the question provoked him. If, as he concluded, 
it was a mask, his friendship for her, the keenness with 
which he was feeling the vital issues of the matter 
to her life and Euphemia's, demanded that the mask 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 105 

should be laid aside. "Naturally, I knew nothing 
whatever about it," he said, " and the point, if I may 
be permitted to say so, is now one less affecting the 
past than the immediate future. You will allow me to 
speak plainly ?" 

" Do you ask my permission ?" she answered, with a 
fleeting smile. "Under the circumstances — at least, 
no," she went on quickly, as Lidderdale was about to 
speak; "you heard my story told by that miserable 
man, and accepted it apparently without a misgiving! 
It is at least only fair that you should hear it from 
myself. Remember, I don't defend my conduct; I 
neither blame it nor excuse it ; my life has been ruled 
by necessity ; no one ever had less choice. When I 
married my first husband I was not eighteen, alone in 
the world, without a shilling. I was not in the least 
in love with him ; I married him because I thought 
he could give me what I wanted — a career, a life worth 
living. He was not rich, but he had no remote pros- 
pect of wealtli, and I adore wealth — of that, at least, I 
have made no secret. I should have preferred, of 
course, to care for my husband ; I am not made of 
marble, whatever he may have told you ; oh, I know 
bis phrases ! But I had been educated in Paris, and 
there, at least, a mariage de convenance^ the suitable 
establishment of a young woman in life, apart from 
any passing phase of sentiment, is not looked upon as 
a deadly sin. In short, I married ; and at the end of 
two years found myself with nothing — nothing to look 
forward to for the rest of my life but the struggling 
existence of a country doctor's wife. Don't imagine I 
complained ; a woman's moans over such a fate are too 



106 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

petty ; but if my husband told you that I bated him 
he told you the truth. 1 rejoiced when he went to 
Australia; do you suppose I wept when the news 
came that he was dead? Was a grave on the other 
side of the world to stand between me and a second 
marriage? The squire oflEered me everything I could 
desire ; more than that, he touched my imagination. 
I thought him clever — he was the cleverest man I had 
yet had the opportunity to meet in England ; and it 
had always been my ambition to know clever men. 1 
was deceived, of course ; but I had the idea then that 
he was a man to achieve greatness in one direction or 
another. Yes, incredible as it may seem now, I think 
I almost loved him." 

"Why — why — "broke in Lidderdale, impatiently. 
"Why," he went on more quietly, "affect this tone 
about the matter? If you loved the man you con- 
sented to marry, there is nothing discreditable in it 
that I can perceive — ^absolutely the reverse." 

" Oh, love I" Helen murmured. She fixed her eyes 
upon him with a profound and troubled gaze. " Don't 
let us speak of love," she said. "It has nothing to say 
to the present business." 

" No, it has nothing to say to that," Lidderdale 
agreed. He paused. "Don't suppose that I don't 
understand how it all happened," he said in a moment. 
" Of course — of course I understand." 

" No !" she cried, with a sort of passion, " you cannot 
understand, for you have never known what it is to 
have everything you desire in life within your grasp, 
and then to see it about to be snatched from you by 
an inconceivable catastrophe. Consider my position ; 



AH EXQUISITE FOOL. 105 

|)e laid aside. "Natnrallj, I knew nothing 
■ abont it," lie said, " and the point, if I may 
ktted to aay so, is now one less affecting the 
ji the immediate futare. Yon will allow me to 
^inlj ¥' 

D aetc my permission ?" she answered, with a 

leniile. "Under the circnmstances — at least, 

I went on quickly, as Lidderdale was about to 

Fyon heard my story told by that miserable 

I accepted it apparently without a misgiving I 

lleaet only fair that yon shonld hear it from 

\ Remember, I don't defend my condnct; I 

fclame it nor excnse it ; my life has been rnled 

Rsity ; no one ever had less choice. When I 

■my fii'st husband I was not eighteen, alone in 

, without a shilling. I was not in the least 

cith him; I married him because I thought 

live me what I wanted — a career, a life worth 

He was not rich, but he had no remote pros- 

Leattb, and I adore wealth — of tliat, at least, I 

(de no secret. I should have preferi-ed, of 

> care for my husband; I am not made of 

whatever he may have told yon ; oh, I know 

But I had been educated in Paris, and 

i least, a mariage de canvenance, the suitable 

■ment of a young woman in life, apart from 

■ing phase of sentiment, is not looked upon as 

In short, I married ; and at the end of 

■■8 found myself with nothing — nothing to look 

to for the rest of my life but the struggling 

■J of a country doctor's wife. Don't imagine I 

lied : a woman's moans over such a fate are too 



108 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

tempered, emotional man, with what are called strong 
domestic affections. He had ceased, from the domestic 
point of view, al^ you wonld say, to care about me ; I 
knew that that parting would not cost him much ; bat 
if I had allowed him to see Eiiphemia, do you think 
he would ever have left England, or that he would not 
have returned? Euphemia was between three and 
four then, the most charming child in the world ; if 
her father had seen her, nothing that I could have said 
would have induced him to give her up. Even as it 
is — " She paused. 

" As it is," said Lidderdale, " he has never forgiven 
you for playing him false. It was not clever of you.*' 

"No, he has never forgiven me." She sat silent 
a while. " I thought I had learned to know him during 
the years we were together," she said, " but as a fact I 
did not ; I had no conception of the vindictiveness of 
his nature. Do you know the life he has given me 
for the last fifteen years ? He has had me in his power, 
and he has never ceased from making me feel it. So 
far as I was concerned he had nothing to gain ; I would 
rather die than recognize myself, or be recognized again, 
as his wife; and he knows that ; yes, he knows it." She 
paused again for a moment, looking sombrely before 
her. " With me," she said, " he could do nothing, he 
probably desired to do nothing ; but through Euphemia 
he has always had a hold upon me. Do you begin to 
conceive the existence I have been leading ? In what 
way I don't know, but he has managed to keep himself 
informed as to my movements, and he has let me know 
it. Now and then a twelvemonth would elapse with- 
out my hearing from him ; and then, just as I began 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. lOG 

Ibe Jaid aside. "KatnraDy, I knew nothing 
about it," he said, " and the point, if I may 
bitted to saj so, is now one less affecting the 
In the immediate fntare. Yoa will allow me to 
lainly !" 

lyon ask my permission V alio answered, with a 
I smile. "Under the eircumBtances — at least, 
i went on quickly, aa Lidderdale was aboat to 
I" you heard ray story told by that miserable 
Id accepted it apparently without a misgiving! 
n least only fair that yon should hear it from 
Remember, I don't defend my conduct; I 
Iblamc it nor excuse it ; my life has been rnled 
■ssity ; no one ever had less choice. When I 
~\ my fii'St husband I was not eighteen, alone in 
lid, without a shilling. I was not in the least 
Iwith him; I married him because I thought 
T give me what I wanted — a career, a life worth 
J He was not rich, but he had no remote pros- 
IwBalth, and I adore wealth — of tliat, at least, I 
lade no secret. I should have preferred, of 
Ito care for my husband ; I am not made of 
I whatever he may have told you ; oh, I know 
Bnt I had been educated in Paris, and 
1 least, a manage de convenanee, the suitable 
meut of a young woman in life, apart from 
fsing phase of sentiment, is not looked upon as 
Id short, I married ; and at the end of 
■rs found myself with nothing — nothing to look 
1 to for the rest of my life bnt the struggling 
fce of a country doctor's wife. Don't imagine I 
Ined ; a woman's moans over such a fate are too 



no AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

could I have put an end to it?" she said at last. 
"After all, if it is a choice of the circles of an In- 
ferno, one maj^s well remain where one is. I have 
no money." 

" Why on earth — " began Lidderdale, and paused. 

" Why could I not have worked as other women 
have done, earned a livelihood, and so on ? Is that 
what you mean ? That is what I call a circle in the 
Inferno ; I preferred to remain where I was. For one 
thing, I could bring up my daughter as I choose to 
think a daughter of mine ought to be brought up. 
Can you imagine Euphemia going out into the world 
as a lady's-maid or a shop-girl, or, at the best, a daily 
governess ? That would have been her fate if I had 
left Bromley Court, as it would have been my own if 
I had not married immediately after my father's death. 
And it was not only Euphemia ; it was myself ! My 
life has been hideously incomplete ; it has been dwarfed, 
limited, stunted; but at least it has not been sordid. It 
has not, for the last fifteen years at any rate, been spent 
in darning elbows and mending stockings and patch- 
ing shoes, in considering in what direction three half- 
pence can be laid out to do the duty of twopence. I 
love luxury — I have always been frank with you on 
that point — less, perhaps, for what it actually gives than 
because it fulfils, it rounds off, my conception of life 
in its finest quality ; and that at least I have had." 

" It is a very common conception of life — there is 
nothing particularly fine about it," said Lidderdale; 
" I have often told you so." 

" Yes, you have said so, I know ; but it has not al- 
tered my opinion. After all, every nature has its own 






AN EXQUISITE FOOL. HI 

claims/ and has a right to satisfy them the best way it 



can." 



She said it with an air of convict||ui, at which Lid- 
derdale, sore and sad thongh he was feeling, could 
hardly help laughing. 

" The right — the right," he answered. " Oh, we all 
of us have claims, illimitable claims, if it comes to that, 
and a beggar-woman in the street has probably her own 
idea of luxury as well* defined as yours ; but her effort 
to satisfy it might probably lead her into some awk- 
ward dilemma." He stopped abruptly, recalled to the 
terrible dilemma of the woman actually before him. 
"Let us leave these abstract questions," he said. "Life, 
after all, is much less apt to be a disinterested choice 
between this and that than a series of compromises 
with conflicting diflSculties. I don't say that it should 
be, but that it is. Be satisfied ; I understand — What 
I was about to say when you interrupted me just now 
was, why on earth didn't you tell me the whole story 
before this, and let me help you if I could." 

"What a question 1" said Helen. She turned to her 
embroidery frame, and took up her needle again ; but 
her hand trembled so much — it was the only sign of 
emotion she gave — that she immediately laid it down. 
"You know it now," she said, with a certain sombre- 
ness, "and that is already too soon. Do you think it 
is a story I should be likely to tell ? And how could 
you have helped me? No one could — no one can help 



me.". 



"Ah, there I differ from you," said Lidderdale, with 
such air of cheerfulness as he could assume. " I have 
great faith in people helping each other. All this is a 



114 • AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

by the difficulty of knowing what advice to give. 
" Take Euphemia away," he said, abruptly ; " leave Ba- 
den with her at once, to-morrow, this evening, if possi- 
ble. Take her away, anywhere. I could follow with 
the squire, if necessary ; we will find some reason, some 
excuse ; and then the sooner you can arrange her mar- 
riage the better. When once she is married — ^yes, you 
are right, I understand your anxiety on that point now 
— the difficulty, so far as she is concerned, must be 
greatly lessened." 

" And I ?" said Helen. She sat gazing fixedly at 
Lidderdale for a moment with the inscrutable, half- 
mocking look in her eyes, with which he had long been 
familiar. " You are quite right," she said then, calmly. 
" Euphemia has been my great difficulty throughout. 
As for your advice that she should be made acquainted 
with the whole story, you must allow me to say it is 
preposterous; what do you propose that she and I 
should do afterwards? But I am as anxious to spare 
her as you can be, to disentangle her from this miser- 
able business. So long, indeed, as her father was in 
Australia I had comparatively little anxiety on her ac- 
count; apparently he got on very well without her. 
What has brought him back now I cannot imagine." 

" You have no idea ?" said Lidderdale. He was, in 
fact, curious to know how much Richard Craven had 
told his wife of that personal history that he had com- 
municated to himself. 

" Not the slightest ; he gave me no reason whatever. 
Have you ?" 

" As I understood him," said Lidderdale, with some 
hesitation, ''he felt himself approaching old age in an 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 115 

alien land where he had no ties, an^ was anxious to see 
his child and enter into some sort of relations with her. 
The desire, of course, is a natural onei^ unhappily, it 
cannot be carried out without causing a great deal of 
misery all round. I am sorry for him, you know." 
" " You are sorry for him ?" 

" Well, yes, I am. I am sorry for any poor beast 
whose life has been one long shipwreck, like his. 
Nothing can set it right now, for any one concerned, 
and that is why he had better let it alone ; but he has 
his own point of view, of course." 

" Ah, the point of view — ^you have a great apprecia- 
tion of that always," said Helen. " However, he is 
fortunate in your sympathy." She sat leaning forward 
in silence for a while, her chin resting on her clasped 
hands, her eyes fixed on the floor. " I am going away, 
of course," she said, at last, "though not precisely as 
you advise ; that suggestion doesn't seem to me alto- 
gether happy. I propose to go decorously, and in 
good company with the squire. He is tired to death 
of Baden ; we have been here nearly three weeks, and 
I suggested to him tbis morning that after the ball to- 
night there would be nothing to keep us here, and that 
we might leave to-morrow. His answer was that he 
was more than ready to go, that he had no idea we 
were staying here on any one's account but mine. So 
you see there is no need for excuses at all." 

" Ah, so much the better — so much the better," said 
Lidderdale. " Where do you propose going to ?" 

"I don't know." 

" You don't know ?" 

"No, literally, 1 don't know. The squire, I believe, 



116 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

fancies we are returning straight home ; that is not my 
idea, I need hardly say. But until we have really 
started I don't want to decide. Paris, Brussels, the 
north pole, anywhere. It is safer not to know." 

" Safer — well, possibly," murmured Lidderdale. He 
took up his hat. " I can do nothing then — nothing 
for you ?" 

" On the contrary," she said, speaking more natu- 
rally than she had yet done, "you can, if you will, do 
so much. Why should I conceal it ? I depend upon 
you, and for — for Euphemia's sake, I feel sure you will 
not fail me." She went on quickly, as Lidderdale made 
some movement to speak. "Keep an eye on Hugh 
Severnii^'* she said ; " he will be extremely disconsolate 
when we are gone, but I will write to you as soon as 
we are settled anywhere, and then use your influence 
with him to induce him to write to me and make a 
formal proposal for Euphemia. He may write to Eu- 
phemia herself if he prefers it ; but no, the other way 
will be better. He can join us afterwards, wherever 
we may be, and it will not be my fault if the whole 
matter is not settled without delay. Tou think I do 
not greatly care for Euphemia — oh, I have nothing to 
learn as to your various opinions about me," she said, 
with her fine and delicate smile, as Lidderdale was 
about to protest, " but you are wrong. I am not very 
tender with her, perhaps ; that is not my way ; but I 
value, I appreciate Euphemia. When she is safely 
married I shall draw breath again. Whatever may 
happen, she will have a legitimate protector. For 
mysfelf, I have too often desired lately that everything 
might end, greatly to care." 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 117 

" Others might care," said Lidderdale, not without 
emotion. "That also — that also must be arranged." 
He rose as he spoke. " Where did you say Euphemia's 
father is to be found ?" he inquired. " If I could get 
hold of him I would try to detain him, make him hear 
reason, anything, until you are gone." 

"He has rooms above Keichmann, the photogra- 
pher's shop." She hesitated a moment. " After all, I 
am not seriously alarmed," she said, "about what he 
may do — not immediately. He is vindictive, he may 
say that he hates me ; but he doesn't ! If I wished — 
but nothing could be further from my wishes — I could 
bring him to my feet again. I have held him in check 
all these years ; to a certain extent I have him in check 
still; I felt that on the two occasions that I have 
seen him." 

" Ah, you are wrong, believe me you are wrong," 
said Lidderdale, with energy. " That is where women 
make such huge mistakes, even the cleverest of them. 
They think they can do anything with a man. Do 
you know my opinion of Craven? He may be in 
love with you still; you are the best judge of that; 
but if so, his love has taken the form which, if he 
were a man to commit murder, would lead him to kill 
you." 

Her color rose a little. " That is always something," 
she answered. 

" Oh, he won't do that ; but he'll stop at nothing, all 
the same, to carry out his own purposes. Forgive me 
if I am brutal, but don't, for Heaven's sake, imagine 
yourself into a fool's paradise !" 

" There is no danger, since I am running away." 



U8 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

She held out her hand. " Sans adieu," she said. " I 
shall see you again to-night at the ball." 

" Ah, that bail," said Lidderdale, frowning a little. 
"What need is there for you to go? With a journey 
before you to-morrow, why don't you go quietly to 
bed?" 

" To sleep ?" she answered. " No — I believe we had 
better go to the ball. In the first place, Euphemia and 
I are to dine with Lady Martyn ; our stopping away at 
the last moment would make a certain talk, and I wish 
to avoid talk; I should have to invent reasons, and I 
am sick of inventing reasons. I am inconceivably 
tired," she said, with a sudden and charming smile. 
" Besides, I should oflEend Lady Martyn, who, as you 
know, is our nearest neighbor at home. All that, of 
course, would be nothing, if there were any definite 
reason against our going. But we leave the hotel at 
seven this evening, we leave Baden at eight to-morrow 
morning. I see no fear of further complications." 

"Perhaps not; perhaps you are right; I will at 
least do what I can to prevent them," said Lidderdale. 

" Ah, do ; I am inconceivably tired," murmured 
Helen, falling back in her chair as he left the room. 



CHAPTER X. 

If Lidderdale started in pursuit of Eichard Craven 
with better hope of coming up with him than before, 
he was doomed once more to disappointment ; for, on 
arriving at the rooms indicated to him by Mrs. Brom- 
ley, he found that their temporary occupant was ab- 
sent. He had gone out early, he was informed, and 
had not returned ; it was not known when he would 
return. Lidderdale felt baffled and helpless ; in vulgar 
parlance, he wondered what the deuce Craven was up 
to, but personally he could do nothing further. He 
turned away from the lodging, and climbing the steep 
streets of the little town, plunged into the forest above. 

He sat and wandered there all the afternoon, keep- 
ing as far as possible from the beaten tracks, seeking 
the deeper and more umbrageous recesses of the woods. 
Like Helen, he felt inconceivably tired, mentally sore 
and bruised and perplexed, as he had rarely felt be- 
fore. Even if his hand had been free, he would hard- 
ly have known how to play his cards. But he was not 
free; in point of fact, he was outside the game alto- 
gether, he had nothing to do with it ; he realized that 
by degrees in the course of two or three hours* musing. 
He had — or he told* himself he had — very little influ- 
ence over Helen, and if he had had more he would 
hardly have known how to use it ; the simple morality 
of the case might be plain enough ; but was Helen a 
woman to walk to the stake on a question of morality 



120 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

such as this? She had betrayed no such disposition 
so far; and if she had, Lidderdale, as before, would 
have felt himself little capable of urging it. There, 
at least, he might take such comfort as he could in the 
reflection that it was no immediate concern of his, that 
the ordering of events was outside his control. As 
his brains cleared by degrees, and the wretched per- 
plexity of the situation became familiar to him, his 
baffled desire to do something to help his friends re- 
solved itself finally into the determination to shield 
Euphemia as far as possible. His thoughts dwelt 
on her for a time, then turned with a singular mingling 
of impatience and solicitude to her mother. He could 
not shield her ; he was impotent to do that, he felt, 
with a movement of pain. She had made her own 
life for good and evil ; but this solution of so much 
that had puzzled him in her character gave him some 
moments of acute suffering. Among women she had 
been his most familiar friend, and to a solitary man 
like Lidderdale that meant a good deal. It meant a 
hundred intimate and domestic charms, a door that he 
could pass with the certainty of a welcome, a hearth 
where he could sit at his ease, hours when he could be 
silent if he felt indisposed to talk. The very absence 
of any warmer sentiment (that, under the circum- 
stances, would have been simply torment to a man of 
Lidderdale's disposition) had added to the charm ; and 
if Helen had never touched his heart, as the phrase 
goes, if, on certain sides, he had even disapproved of 
her, she responded to a hundred other sides of his char- 
acter. Her beauty, her talent, her fine discriminations, 
her gifts of silence and conversation alike, had satifified 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 121 

him ; he had greatly esteemed her friendship, as she 
had, he believed, greatly esteemed his. And now 
nothing could be the same again ; he even felt, with a 
sort of remorse, that, greatly as he pitied her, she had 
never (apart from all the rest) pleased him less than 
to-day. Something in the bitterness of her speech, in 
the vehemence of her resentment against fate, had 
jarred him indescribably, like a false and common 
chord struck on a finely-toned instrument. And this 
was only the beginning. At the best — but he could 
not think then of any best ; and the worst, her high 
beauty tarnished to the world, her name dishonored 
and become the centre of an odious scandal, he could 
not endure to contemplate; he felt as though some- 
thing were broken in his own life. 

He roused himself at last, and made his way back to 
the town with such comfort as his final recognition 
that, in a tangled skein past his powers of unravelling, 
the only clew was Euphemia, might a£Eord. He felt 
that for the moment it was her mother's clew also. 
If, in that immense egoism which, in his knowledge 
of Helen, had inspired both her coldest and her most 
passionate moments, he had discovered no very warm 
affection for her daughter, he had always accredited 
her with a strong sense of duty towards her ; he be- 
lieved now that that sense of duty had been her great 
conscientious satisfaction in life ; at any rate, he per- 
ceived that she was willing to risk much rather than 
abandon Euphemia. He called again at the photogra- 
pher's on his way through the town, but was informed 
that the inmate of the rooms above the shop was still 
absent. The afternoon meanwhile had waned. lid- 



122 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

derdale consulted his watch ; it was not far from seven 
o'clock, and before regaining his own inn he tamed 
his steps once more in the direction of the Hotel de 
I'Europe. 

He found Euphemia dressed and alone in the sitting- 
room, buttoning her long gloves, lovely in her vapor- 
ous draperies ; by her side on the table lay a bouquet 
of white roses. It had been in Lidderdale's mind to 
send her some flowers himself, but seeing young Sev- 
erne leave the florist's shop as he was about to enter 
it, he had abandoned his purpose. He saw Euphemia 
glance at her roses as he entered the room now, and 
slightly blush ; and he saw it with a momentary pang. 
Well, all that was ended so far as he was concerned. 
He looked at the young girl as he came up to her, and 
told her with a smile that she was charming. 

She did not blush again, but answered him with her 
candid smile. 

" Here is your sketch," she said, taking it from the 
table and giving it to him; "it is very bad, as you 
see. I am afraid it is worse than the other." 

" No, I like it, I like it," he answered. He took it 
to the window, and stood there studying it for a min- 
ute in silence. " How am I to thank you," he said, 
coming back to her, " for devoting all these hours to 
satisfying my fancy ?" 

" Oh, /liked that," she replied, smiling again, "and 
I am glad you asked me just to-day, for mamma has 
told me something that surprises me a good deal. We 
are going to leave Baden to-morrow morning," 

" Ah, you are going to leave Baden. Yes, that is 
sudden." 



A^' EXQUISITE FOOL. 128 

" Is it not ? Papa is in a hurry to get home, she 
says ; he is so tired of hotel life ; so, as there is noth- 
ing to keep us after the ball to-night, we leave to-mor- 
row." 

" Ah, well, then that settles it, I must go too," said 
Lidderdale ; " it would be too dull to stay here when 
you are gone ; I should miss you too much." Euphe- 
mia did not answer, and in a moment he continued : 
"You have no regrets, I see; you are glad to leave 
Baden." 

" No," said Euphemia, hesitating a little. " I think 
I should have liked to stay longer. It is true I didn't 
like it much at first — but now — " She broke off. 
" How tired you look," she said, suddenly, for the first 
time catching sight of the expression of Lidderdale's 
face ; " more tired than you did this morning. Have 
you been walking far?" 

" No, not very far ; do I look tired ? That must be 
the effect of the bad news of your departure; it has 
robbed me of my spirits and my color at once, while 
it has left you quite blooming." He looked again at 
Euphemia ; she had never appeared to him more love- 
ly. " Here are some more flowers," he said ; " it seems 
to rain bouquets in Baden; one would think you were 
a prima donna at least." 

The waiter had entered the room, bearing an im- 
mense nosegay composed entirely of carnations, that 
he placed in Euphemia's hands. Fastened to it was a 
folded paper addressed to her. She turned the bou- 
quet round, admiring the flowers with a sort of pleased 
curiosity. 

" Who can have sent me these ?" she said. " I know 



124 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

no one in Baden but Lady Martyn ; perhaps it is the 
squire, or — ^" 

She looked at Lidderdale inquiringly ; he shook his 
head. " Not I," he said. " I have been feeling all 
this time how remiss I am. But I dare say that paper 
will tell you." 

She detached and opened the little folded note,'gazed 
at it a moment in perplexity, and handed it to Lidder- 
dale. " I don't understand, that explains nothing," 
she said. ^^ Ah, here comes mamma ; perhaps she will 
know." 

The paper, as Lidderdale had seen at a glance, was 
inscribed with one sentence only : " From an unknown 
friend." Euphemia took it from his hand and went 
up to her mother, who had just entered the room. 

"Isn't this strange, mamma?" she said. "Who can 
have sent it ?" 

Helen read the paper; her eyes met Lidderdale's 
for a single moment. 

"No one that we know, evidently," she said then. 
"It is either a mistake or an impertinence, and in 
neither case, my dear, would you wish to keep the 
flowers." 

She crossed the room as she spoke, and rang the 
bell. " These flowers have been sent by mistake," she 
said to the waiter who appeared ; " have the goodness 
to see that they are sent back at once to the florist 
from whom they came ; the address is stamped on the 
paper. Euphemia," she went on, turning to her daugh- 
ter, who stood wondering a little, "I have forgotten 
Hay fan ; be so kind, my dear child, as to go and ask 
Millar for it, and then we must be going." 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 125 

• 

She walked away to the window as Euphemia left 
the room, and stood there with her back to Lidderdale. 
She was dressed with a certain splendor; and, looking 
at the noble head and figure that gave point to her 
brocade and diamonds, he said to himself that if ever 
woman might be excused for cultivating luxury like a 
virtue, and sacrificing to it as before a shrine, it was 
herself. Se knew, indeed, that luxury meant for her 
infinitely more than brocades and jewels; that it repre- 
sented rather the finest essence of many more exqui- 
site things in life ; but it had always seemed to him a 
tragic side of her existence that so many of these had 
passed her by, or been allowed to slip, leaving only the 
more vulgar element. The reflection, however, mere- 
ly passed through his mind now. He had the idea 
that Helen, in sending Euphemia out of the room, had 
wished to give herself the opportunity to speak to him ; 
but if so, now that the opportunity was here, she did 
not immediately avail herself of it. She only looked 
at him as he approached her with wide-open eyes, 
whose fixed gaze had in it a sudden confession of help- 
lessness ; something, he perceived, in this little inci- 
dent, had moved her profoundly, had shaken her 
confidence in her own resources, and set her within 
measurable distance of the catastrophe she dreaded. 
In a moment she said as much herself. Her lips trem- 
bled a little, but she tried to force a smile. 

" I feel," she said, " as if I were at the end of my , 
courage. I don't know what to do." 

" No, don't say that — don't say that," answered Lid- 
derdale, hardly knowing what he said ; this avowal of 
weakness on the part of a woman who had shown so 



126 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

unwavering a front till now touched him inexpressibly. 
"You have so much courage; don't let yourself be 
daunted now." 

She looked at him again without answering, and 
moving away from the window to the table, took up 
the scrap of paper that had accompanied the flowers 
and tore it into twenty pieces. 

" You saw what was written ?" she said to Lidder- 
dale, who had followed her. He signified his assent. 
" How could he have learned that we were going out 
this evening?" 

" Oh, in a place like this, what can be easier !" he 
answered. " Isn't your name down as one of the pa- 
tronesses of this ball? For Heaven's sake, give it 
up 1" he cried all at once, urgently and irrelevantly. 
" Take my advice, give it up !" 

"No, don't give me any more advice, it is too late; 
besides, here is Euphemia," Helen said, quickly. She 
had recovered her self-possession, Lidderdale saw. The 
movement of indignation with which she had torn up 
the paper seemed to have restored her balance, to have 
set the pendulum going again, as it were. She was 
still extremely pale, however. That sudden look of 
age that, under the influence of grief or exhaustion 
occasionally leaps out like a tragic prophecy on even 
quite young faces, was on hers now ; and Lidderdale, 
with a sort of shock, realized for the first time, per- 
haps, how Helen would look as an old woman. She 
seemed conscigus of it herself, for she passed her hand 
quickly over her face once or twice, as though to ef- 
face that importunate writing, and went forward to 
meet her daughter. 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. * 137 

"You have my fan, Euphemia?" she said. "We 
must be going, my dear." 

She took her fan from the young girl's hand, 
smoothed down a stray lock on her forehead, and gave 
a straightening pull to her skirts here and there. 

" Ton do very well — not at all amiss," she said then 
with a smile, and turning to Lidderdale : " What do 
you think ?" she said. 

"Ah, don't ask me for any more compliments," he 
answered, giving Euphemia the roses she had left on 
the table. "I have spoiled her with them already. 
There will be nothing left for me soon but to say 
something disagreeable to her, that she may have the 
pleasure of contradicting me." 

He spoke with an emotion of extreme tenderness 
and melancholy. He had a feeling that he could not 
logically have justified, that he was bidding this fair 
young creature good-bye, that they would never see 
each other exactly in the same way again. If he could 
have had his will, he would have taken her aside that 
minute, and told her as gently as he knew how, the 
story — as much of it, that is, as it was necessary for 
her to know — of her father's reappearance. That, he 
believed, would be the best way to spare her now. 
But her mother's will stood in opposition to his ; and 
to hope for the best, to hope that the next day might 
see them safe and far from Baden was all that re- 
mained. The carriage was awaiting them at the door 
of the hotel, and he accompanied them down-stairs. 

" Don't forget our quadrille," he said to Euphemia ; 
"let me find a blank space somewhere on your card 
when I arrive." Then to Helen : " I am going to see 



128 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

the squire," he said ; " as yon leave to-morrow, I will 
go and wish him good-bye." 

She pansed with her foot on the step of the carriage 
and looked at him. " Oh, I will be discreet," he af- 
firmed. " I know he is not very well to-day ; I shall 
not stay long." 

" Are yon going to see papa ?" said Enphemia, spring- 
ing in after her mother. " Tell him all the disagree- 
able things yon want to say about me ; Jie will contra- 
dict you, and save me the trouble." 

" Oh, you may trust me," Lidderdale answered. He 
watched the carriage drive off, and going back into 
the hotel, made his way up-stairs again to Mr. Brom- 
ley's apartment. 



CHAPTER XI. 

LiDDEBDALE had alwajs been excellent friends with 
the squire. He had a theory, which occasionally 
struck him as absurd, that he understood him better 
than his wife did ; he at least felt sure that he did him 
more justice. What Helen's grievance was he knew, 
indeed, perfectly well. She would have liked her hus- 
band to set the world on fire ; and it has already been 
intimated that no one could be less likely to put the 
match to that fine conflagration than Squire Bromley. 
He was simply a cultivated, intelligent countrj'-gen tie- 
man, without a grain of initiative, or of genius, which 
may be held to be the fine quintessence of initiative. 
As for the cynicism that Mrs. Bromley had the habit 
of attributing to him, Lidderdale was convinced that 
it was very much on the surface, that it was the result 
of irritation rather than of philosophy. Physical suf- 
fering, and, as might be surmised, mental exasperation 
at the attitude assumed towards him by his wife, had 
combined of late years to make him, in fact, extremely 
irritable. Euphemia, perhaps, got on with him better 
than any one else ; he rarely said sharp things to her; 
he never spoke of her but with great affection ; but 
Lidderdale had the theory — he had formed many theo- 
ries concerning the husband and wife during the years 
that he had known them — that au fond^ the squire 
continued to admire and care for his wife more than 
for any one else in the world. It must be confessed 
9 



130 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

that there was little on the surface to justify this 
theory ; no two people could have drifted more com- 
pletely apart while continuing to preserve the decen. 
cies of social and domestic intercourse; but Lidderdale 
held to his belief that the squire's irritation was large- 
ly informed by his impotence to change the situation, 
by the impasse in which he found himself, by the 
blank wall of indifference that his wife continually 
presented to him. The curious similarities between 
his position and that of the man whose disastrous his- 
tory he had listened to the previous night (though no 
two men could be less alike) had occurred to Lidder- 
dale more than once during the day. Strange woman ! 
who, in her passionate straining after an ideal which to 
be worthy of her must, she held, comprise everything 
finest in life, had turned to irremediable bitterness the 
service and aflEection of two devoted men. If he him- 
self, he reflected, had escaped something of the same 
kind, it was because he had, in a way, turned the tables 
on her by always maintaining the critical attitude ; he 
could be indifferent, too ! How far from indifferent 
he was, in a certain sense, he testified to now in the 
sad and sorry heart he bore ; but as he mounted the 
stairs to Mr. Bromley's room, he felt more sorry for 
him than for any one else. The blow, however it 
might fall, would be a heavy one to him, he felt sure. 
Helen was all wrong there. 

He had not yet seen the squire since his own arrival, 
a sharper touch than usual of his chronic ailment, rheu- 
matic gout, having kept the invalid shut up and in- 
visible in his own rooms for the past day or two. He 
was better this evening, however, and Lidderdale being 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 131 

admitted, found him seated in an ai^m-chair, wrapped 
in the long, loose coat in which he passed a good deal 
of his life. He was a frail-looking, sharp-featured man, 
with whitening hair, pale blue eyes dulled by long 
sickness, and an air of extreme feebleness. He made 
no attempt to raise himself in his chair as his visitor 
entered, and immediately began to speak about a book 
he held in his hand. 

" I have a treasure here," he said ; " Eupheraia found 
it for me in some old shop where they sell antiquities. 
You have no notion how clever she is in hunting 
things up J she made the shopman bring it to me to 
look at." 

" Yes, yes, that is a treasure worth having," said Lid- 
derdale, taking the book and turning it over. "Even 
my ignorance can discover that. Yes, that was very 
clever of Euphemia, and you will have one pleasant 
remembrance of Baden, at any rate. I'm afraid the 
place has not suited you very well — that you haven't 
liked it much." 

" I haven't liked the hotel, if that's what you mean 
— that's the most I see of any place," answered the 
squire. "I want to be at home again. I should have 
gone straight from Homburg, where the waters did me 
more harm than good, but my wife wanted to come 
on here. She finds it dull at home — naturally, with a 
sick man, and all the neighbors' eyes fixed on her to 
see she doesn't neglect him. She has more liberty here, 
and more amusement." 

"Ah, well," said Lidderdale, ignoring the latter part 
of the speech, " I think you did right to come here for 
a little while; you'll feel the benefit when you get 



132 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

home. Selfishly, you know, I'm sorry you are going 
60 soon ; yon start to-morrow, I understand." 

"To-morrow — yes, there's some talk of our going 
to-morrow, but I can't say I think there is the least 
chance of it. My wife has taken Euphemia off to some 

d d ball ; I suppose they won't be in till three or 

four in the morning, and the train goes at eight ; so 
you may judge of our chances of getting off." 

" If they are wise they won't go to bed at all," said 
Lidderdale, smiling. "Euphemia is a terrible little 
dormouse, I know; but I shall represent to her — I 
shall see her again, by-and-by — that she can sleep in 
the train, and that she had better take a walk with me 
in the forest after the ball, instead of going to bed. I 
will see that she is at the station in time." 

The invalid made no immediate reply; he began 
fingering and turning over the leaves of his old volume 
again. " It's an odd thing," he said. " My wife's a 
clever woman — I needn't tell you that, Lidderdale — 
and Euphemia is not clever at all, about books I mean ; 
and yet it is she who finds out these things for me ; 
she seems to have a sort oi flair where her affections 
and sympathy are concerned. This might have mould- 
ered to dust on the shelf in the antiquary's shop be- 
fore my wife would have discovered it." 

" Ah, Mrs. Bromley has different tastes," said Lid- 
derdale, impartially. " But I think Euphemia is very 
clever," he added, smiling. " If I wanted a commis- 
sion executed, I would trust to her before any one in 
the world." 

" Yes, yes — if it lay within her power. But she's 
not clever like her mother. Oh yes, my wife has dif- 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 133 

ferent tastes, I know, and a fine contempt for those 
she doesn't share. That's the way she shows her 
cleverness. I like Euphemia's way best, I own." 

Lidderdale made no answer. He was accustomed, 
in one sense — in another, he never was accnstomed, 
for there was nothing he disliked more — to hear the 
sqnire speak bitterly of his wife ; to that helpless pro- 
test against the scorn that made itself felt throngh her 
simple and decent performance of a wife's convention- 
al duties. But to-night he felt as one might feel in 
hearing the dead or dying reviled ; the words had for 
him the same meaningless irony. He sat silent for a 
while, wondering upon what topic he could safely 
touch ; with the squire in the mood expressed by the 
sour compression of his lips, as he sat turning over the 
pages of his volume, topics were not easy to find. He 
glanced at his watch at last, and took up his hat. 

" Did you know," he said, " that young Severne is 
in Baden ?" 

" Hugh Severne ? I know nothing about it," said the 
squire. "What brings him here? He's not the sort 
of lad to come to a place like this for pleasure. I've a 
better opinion of him." 

" I have an excellent opinion of him also," said Lid- 
derdale, " but I have a notion that he very well knew 
what he was about when he made his way to Baden. 
I have an idea that he finds it more attractive just now 
than any other place in the world." 

The squire turned his dim eyes, lighted for the mo- 
ment by a spark of irritation, upon his companion. 

"You are alluding, I suppose, to Enphemia," he 
said. 



134 AN EXQUISITE* FOOL. 

" To Enphemia, of course," Lidderdale replied. He 
reflected a moment. " I perceive you know," he said, 
" that Hugh Severne is very mnch in love with En- 
phemia." 

" I know nothing of the sort," replied the squire, 
testily, "and I don't want to know it. What, I should 
like to know, should I do without Euphemia?" 

" Ah, that is a hard question for every one connected 
with Enphemia. But, after all, it is to be supposed that 
the occasion for her marrying will occur some day; 
and if this particular occasion should arise, would you, 
personally, find anything to object to in it? Forgive 
me if I am indiscreet." 

The squire closed his volume, and drew the rug that 
covered his feet higher up about his knees. "My 
opinion would have nothing to do with it one way or 
another," he replied, dryly. " Euphemia is not my 
daughter." 

" Ah, that one may be excused for sometimes for- 
getting," Lidderdale answered. " You have made her 
the position of a daughter." 

"Euphemia has any position she pleases in my 
house," said the squire. " But that doesn't give me 
any voice in her affairs; you might understand that 
for yourself. I don't want her to marry yet; she has 
plenty of time before her ; I should miss her extremely. 
Bat if her mother chooses to marry her, I can't pre- 
vent it. She isn't my child." 

" I wish she were — I wish to Heaven she were," said 
Lidderdale with conviction. " Don't cast her off, what- 
ever happens," he would have liked to say. "DonH 
overthrow all the traditions of her young life in favor 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 186 

of a maD whose natural hold on her may be stronger, 
but whose claims on her gratitude and affection can 
never equal yours." Naturally, however, he said noth- 
ing of all this ; in view, indeed, of the squire's affec- 
tion for Euphemia, there miglit probably never be any 
need to say it ; but he had, in any case, ascertained 
what it had occurred to him it might be well to know 
—that in the event of a speedy marriage being possible 
between Euphemia and young Severne, the squire 
would not be likely to interpose any obstacle. He 
rose to take leave. 

" I came to wish you good-bye," he said, " but I will 
be at the station to-morrow morning and see you off, 
even if I can't persuade Euphemia to take that walk 
in the forest. Meanwhile I must go back to the hotel 
to dine and dress and the rest of it, if I am to put in 
an appearance at this ball as I promised. It's an early 
affair, I believe. The invitations are for nine o'clock." 

The invalid made no reply in words. He simply 
nodded, and Lidderdale left the room. 

He did not, however, immediately seek his hotel. 
He went back to the photographer's, though the vanity 
of these pilgrimages was becoming very apparent to 
him, to inquire again for Kichard Craven, on the 
chance that he might have returned. He had returned, 
so Lidderdale was informed, but had gone out again 
some ten minutes previously ; it was not known when 
he would be back, probably not till late. Lidderdale 
lingered irresolutely in front of the shop for a few mo- 
ments, then walked slowly away in the direction of 
the Conversationhaus. He was extremely unwilling 
to give up the chance of meeting and speaking with 



{ 



136 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

Craven. He had very little idea, indeed, what he 
should say to him, what arguments he conld bring to 
turn him from any purpose he might have formed. 
Nevertheless, he began to wander once more about the 
streets and tree-planted alleys of the little town, look- 
into the cafes and restaurants till the dusk thickened, 
and the futility of hunting for a man who apparent- 
ly wished to keep out of the way struck him afresh. 
Still he did not at once go back to his hotel ; he found 
a chair in front of the Conversationhaus, and sat there, 
scanning the people as they passed, wondering what 
the devil it was Craven intended to do. If he were 
really still in the mind to claim Eupheraia, why had 
he allowed the day to pass in silence, and then he re- 
membered that, after all, it would not have been easy 
for him to communicate with her in the hotel, her 
mother standing, as it were, before her in the doorway. 
From that point of view the bouquet of carnations 
struck him as rather a clever device. It would natu- 
rally be taken straight to Euphemia (a note might have 
been intercepted) ; it would be a sort of preparation to 
the young girl ; she would speculate a little as to this 
unknown friend, and should the moment come for her 
father to declare himself to her, the surprise, the shock 
might be a little softened. Craven had impressed 
himself on Lidderdale as a man who would be willing 
to deal gently with a young girl like Euphemia, who 
would do what he could to avoid scaring her to begin 
with. Indeed, he would gain little by that. 

All at once an idea illuminated the dim perspectives 
down which Lidderdale's imagination had been wander- 
ing, making him start from his seat and declare him- 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 187 

self a fool not to have thought of it before ; Richard 
Craven might be going to the ball. It is true that the 
tickets for this famous ball, though sold for a charity, 
were not very easy to procure; the number had been 
limited, and it was understood that it was not open to 
every one to purchase them. Lidderdale liimself had 
found some difficulty in getting one, and it was prob- 
ably owing to this fact that it had not occurred to him 
till now that Craven, a stranger in the town, might 
avail himself of this opportunity to meet Euphemia. 
But after all, though difficult, it was of course not im- 
possible ; money, and a recommendation from any re- 
spectable inhabitant, would do the business at once. 
Yes, that might be it; yes, there might lie the mean- 
ing of the carnations. Lidderdale started up at the 
thought, from the chair on which he had been loung- 
ing, watching the people as they came and went, and 
began to walk with rapid steps towards his hotel. He 
had lingered so long — it was quite dark now, the lamps 
below and the stars above were all lighted up — tliat 
he would have to hurry over his belated dinner in 
order to dress and drive to Lady Martyn's villa in 
reasonable time. If he could induce Helen to send 
Euphemia home with him at once, so much the better. 
He would invent some fable about the squire; he was 
ready to invent anything that could serve as a pretext 
for getting the young girl away. 



CHAPTER XII. 

Lady Martyn owned a spacious villa at an easy 
twenty minutes' drive from Baden. It stood in a de- 
lightful position, raised a little above the town, with 
the darkness of the pine forest behind its faintly-tinted 
pink walls, and a wide terrace with a temporary pro- 
vision of orange-trees, commanding a view of the white 
hotels below by day, and the twinkling lights that by 
night spread themselves along the valley, and vanished 
into blackness at either end. The hostess of this en- 
gaging abode was a prosperous, hospitable woman, with 
more money than she knew how to dispose of. She 
could easily herself have forwarded to the ruined vil- 
lage and its burnt-out inhabitants the sum she had 
collected by the sale of her tickets ; but she preferred, 
greatly to the enlivenment of the summer visitors to 
Baden, to expend it in the fine festivity that already, 
as Lidderdale's vehicle slowly wound up the hill, was 
sending out the sound of its music and the flare of its 
many-colored lamps and lanterns through the dusky air. 
With all the haste he had made he was later, he found, 
than he had wished to be ; the strains of a waltz and 
the swift measured gliding of feet came to him through 
the open windows, and the court-yard of the villa was 
blocked with carriages, whose lamps struck long shafts 
of light athwart the sombre line of the pine woods that 
closed in immediately behind, revealing strange mo- 
mentary depths in which the music seemed to repeat 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 189 

itself in finer and more romantic cadences. Lidder- 
dale quitted his own vehicle at the outer gate, and 
pushing gradually through the crowding horses' heads 
and attendants, presently found himself in the wide 
vestibule, brilliantly lighted and decorated with palms 
and flowers, where three or four powdered footmen 
stood ready to receive and usher in the guests. Lid- 
derdale left his overcoat and hat in the hands of one 
of these functionaries, and giving up his ticket of ad- 
mission to another, made his way straight to the ball- 
room. 

This was a long white and gold apartment on the 
ground -floor, draped with yellow, hung with chande- 
liers whose twinkling drops reflected themselves in a 
dozen mirrors, and with numerous long windows set 
wide open to the terrace. Almost the first person Lid- 
derdale distinguished in the floating and whirling mass 
of white and blue and rose, illuminated by a hundred 
lights, was Euphemia; she was waltzing with Hugh 
Severne. Lidderdale had never happened to see her 
at a ball before, and he immediately perceived that 
whatever lack of enthusiasm she might have for that 
particular form of entertainment was not due to any 
lack of skill in dancing; she danced charmingly, with a 
particular grace and ease of motion that, ably seconded 
by her partner, was carrying her unruffled through 
the perils of a crowded ball-room. She smiled as she 
passed Lidderdale, her tulle skirts flying back from 
her little white satin feet in the rapid movement of the 
waltz. He watched her for a moment, then turned his 
eyes slowly round the room, scanning one group after 
another. A minute later he saw Mrs. Bromley stand- 



140 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

ing at a little distance with Enphemia's roses in her 
hand. Two or three men were gathered round her, 
and her face, as Lidderdale noted at once, had lost the 
extreme pallor and haggard expression it had worn 
when they parted some three hours before; she looked 
superbly beautiful. She was talking and did not notice 
Lidderdale as, slowly elbowing his way through the 
throng of people, he passed on into the adjoining apart- 
ments, looking right and left as he went; he could 
not rid himself of the idea that he should suddenly 
come upon Euphemia's father. Presently, however, 
having traversed some half-dozen rooms, all lighted up, 
and more or less occupied by card-players and sitting- 
out dancers, having paced the terrace from end to end 
without seeing any one in the least resembling the man 
he was in search of, he began to tell himself that it 
was, after all, simply a conjecture on his part, with ab- 
solutely no foundation to go upon. Richard Craven 
might be miles away for anything he knew to the con- 
trary ; on the whole, he began to think it unlikely that 
a man, probably long unused to society and its ways, 
should put himself into an evening coat and make his 
appearance at a crowded and brilliant entertainment. 
He turned to re-enter the house by one of the long 
windows that opened from the ball-room onto the ter- 
race. In the embrasure he encountered Euphemia and 
her partner; the waltz was over, and they were coming 
out into the cooler air. Lidderdale nodded to the 
young man, whom he had not before seen that day, 
and took Euphemia's card from her hand. 

"Don't forget our quadrille," he said; "let me see 
where you have put me down." 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 141 

" Oh, I have left that to you," she said, smiling ; " I 
couldn't take so much trouble. But you can have 
your choice, as you see." 

"Yes, I see that quadrilles are not so much in de- 
mand. Well, then, we will have the next." He looked 
at the two young people before him with something of 
melancholy mingled with relief; after all, he felt, 
whatever should happen, Eupheniia's ultimate happi- 
ness might be held to be assured ; after all, it was her 
mother who was to be pitied. He laid a kindly hand 
on young Severne's shoulder ; the young fellow blushed 
a little as he met his friend's eye. 

"Take care of your partner; don't let her catch 
cold," said Lidderdale; and passed on into the ball- 
room to find Helen. She was standing where he had 
left her. The room had emptied itself in the interval 
between the dances ; she saw him at once as he came 
towards her across the shining floor, and made a 
movement that, involuntary as it were, disengaged 
her a little from the men standing about her. She did 
not at once address him, however ; she was talking to a 
corpulent, much-decorated man with a bald head and 
a splendid uniform, who listened with an air of the 
highest animation, flinging out his hands and breaking 
into sudden laughs at every second phrase she uttered. 
She was speaking French, which she spoke with a per- 
fect correctness and purity of accent ; and in that lan- 
guage, it seemed to Lidderdale, she expressed herself 
with a still more admirable fluency and distinction 
than he had known her often do in English, when they 
were discussing subjects that roused her eloquence. 
As it happened, he had very rarely seen Helen in 



143 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

society ; their intercourse had been of a quieter, more 
intimate nature, and, well as he knew her, it struck 
him now, as if for the first time, what a brilliant, ac- 
complished creature she was; how perfectly her beauty, 
her fine discriminations, the point of irony that seemed 
inseparable from her view of life, equipped her for 
social warfare and social conquest. She met the 
laughter of her listeners now with a sort of charming 
stare, a touch of surprised naivete in the expression of 
her wide-open eyes that gave them a strange, a sin- 
gular fascination. "You find what I say entertain- 
ing?" she. seemed to inquire. "But, after all, it is 
quite simple, quite obvious." Lidderdale looked at 
her with an admiration mixed with wonder ; he asked 
himself how much was excitement induced by the 
moment of peril in which she stood, or whether for 
any reason she felt that the peril was over. Presently 
she turned her head in his direction; he seized the 
moment to say that he had come to propose getting 
her a cup of tea or an ice; there was a little room 
opening onto the terrace, where it was cooler, if she 
cared to go there. 

" Where is Euphemia ?" she inquired. 

" I left her a moment ago on the terrace with young 
Severne ; they seemed very well contented." 

" Ah, but I cannot desert her like that ; she knows 
that I like her to come back to me between each dance. 
Stay, I will ask Lady Marty n to look after her, if she 
should come in before I return. And then, yes ; take 
me to some cooler room ; it is stifling in here." 

They traversed one or two apartments that Lidder- 
dale had already passed through in his search for 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 14S 

Craven — he continued to turn an unquiet eye on one 
side and the other — and made their way into a little 
matted room with a glass door opening onto the ex- 
treme end of the long terrace. It was lighted up like 
the others, but it was cool and empty. A long mir- 
ror, a stand of flowers, and a couple of garden lounges 
were the only furniture. Helen dropped into one of 
these with an air of exhaustion. 

" I will fetch you a glass of wine," said Lidderdale. 

" No, don't, I want nothing," she answered, rousing 
herself instantly. She pushed back her hair, pressing 
her fingers on either temple. " My head aches a little, 
that is all," she said. " I have been talking, talking 
for the last three hours. It is enough to make any 
one's head ache." 

" Why did you come ? It was folly to come under 
the circumstances," said Lidderdale. " Why could you 
not remain quietly at home ?" 

"Because I couldn't bear it any longer. No, I could 
not; the strain had become too great. I thought I 
could bear anything, but to-day, I own, has taxed my 
powers. However, a few hours will see the end of it 
now." 

"The end of it?" 

" Oh, the end for the moment ; we shall at least get 
away from Baden, from this hideous nightmare." She 
rose, and going up to the mirror, stood before it in 
silence for a moment. " Give me five minutes' rest," 
she said, turning away abruptly ; " that is the greatest 
kindness you can do me. I assure you I can neither 
feel nor think ; I am stupefied. But I shall do better 
after a few minutes' quiet." 



144 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

She sank back Id the chair again with closed eyes, 
her arms hanging down at her side ; Euphemia's roses 
that she had brought with her dropped from her 
fingers onto the floor. Lidderdale gazed at her for a 
moment with a thousand thoughts in his mind ; then 
moving away to the window, stood looking absently 
out upon the terrace. It was almost deserted now; 
the music had begun again, and the sound of another 
waltz reached his ears. One or two stray couples, a 
pink dress, a blue dress, with their attendant cavaliers, 
wandered by, their chance remarks mingling with tlie 
more distant notes of the orchestra. 

" Pretty, is it not ?" with a yawn. 

"Yes, but so crowded. I thought it was to be quite 
exclusive." 

" Oh, exclusive !" 

" Will you have an ice ?" 

" Doesn't one pay for them ?" 

" Pay for them ! What do you mean ?" 

" Oh, don't you know, last year — " 

The voices died away. Lidderdale drew out his 
watch, and for a minute or so his eyes mechanically 
followed the movement of the hands. All at once he 
became conscious of the hour, and his anxiety that had 
been dormant for a moment awoke again with extreme 
force. It was not for this that he had hurried up to 
Lady Martyn's villa. He replaced his watch, and wont 
up to Helen. 

" I am going to find Euphemia," he said. " I shall 
bring her to you, and then you must allow me to see 
you both back to the hotel. You are tired out ; it was 
folly on your part ever to have come." 



AH BXQUI8ITB FOOL. 14ff 

He spoke with a certain roughness. It seemed to 
him, in fact, an extraordinary folly on Helen's part to 
have risked anything by coming abroad this evening ; 
and the spectacle of her lying back there, incapacitated, 
apparently, for looking after her daughter, stirred in 
him a singular sense of soreness and impatience. That 
he was profoundly sorry for her, that he had never 
known her give way, as the phrase is, before, only in- 
creased the wretchedness of the actual situation. Hel- 
en, however, was not really incapacitated at all. She 
opened her eyes wide at the tone of his address, and 
considered him silently for a moment with an expres- 
sion that showed that she had at least recovered her 
self-possession. 

" Yes, do go and find Euphemia," she said. " Haven't 
you promised her some dance? I see no reason, how- 
ever, why we should go back to the hotel. If you 
knew how sick I am of the hotel ! I would far rather 
spend the night here. You have given me what I 
wanted — ten minutes of silence. I shall do very well 
now." 

She picked up Euphemia's roses from the floor and 
buried her face in them, brushing away with her dis- 
engaged hand the petals from the shining folds of her 
skirt. Her fashion of suddenly ignoring the central 
point of the situation irritated Lidderdale now, as it 
had done before. He addressed her with an impatience 
he did not attempt to conceal. 

"Good heavens!" he said, "hasn't it occurred to 
you that your husband may have resolved to follow 
you here ?" 

" My husband ?" 

10 



146 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

Lidderdale grew red with embarrassment, the more 
80 that he perceived, by her frowning a little, that she 
noticed it There was a moment's silence. 

" What is it you mean ?" she said then. 

" Has it not occurred to you," said Lidderdale, more 
quietly, " that Enphemia's father, who has so evidently 
kept himself instructed as to your movements — his 
sending the flowers showed us that — may have it in 
his mind to follow her here ? I don't say that it is 
so. Naturally, I haven't a notion of what is in his 
mind, I have not been able* to get a glimpse of him all 
day; but there have been difficulties in the way of 
seeing her at the hotel that don't exist here. He has 
only to walk in." 

^' But he is not here !" said Helen. She looked at 
him, however, with startled eyes. "I will own to 
you," she said, " the notion did cross my mind for a 
single instant, when I saw the flowers, but for no more. 
You have no idea how difficult it has been this last 
day or two to get tickets for this affair. Lady Mar- 
tyn— " 

" Ah, what is that ? All that is nothing,'' interrupt- 
ed Lidderdale, " if he Was determined to come. There 
are always ways and means, you know." 

"But he is not here!" She rose in some agitation. 
"You see how this villa is arranged/' she said. "All 
the rooms on this side open out of each other ; no one 
can come in except through the ball-room, and I have 
been there the whole evening. I am positive he can- 
not have come without my seeing him." 

" Possibly — ^possibly," said Lidderdale. " Neverthe- 
less, you might have missed him, or he may come later 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 147 

on. In any case, I shall feel easier if Euphemia is 
with yon, and if you are both away. If you will ex- 
cuse me, I will find her at once, and bring her to you 
here." 

He was gone without awaiting an answer, making 
his way with hasty strides back to the ball-room. It 
seemed to him more crowded than before, and among 
all the moving heads and swaying figures he could see 
no one whom he recognized. Presently, however, he 
perceived Lady Martyn, whom he knew by sight, but 
with whom he had no further acquaintance. Euphe- 
mia was not with her; and immediately afterwards he 
caught sight of young Severne standing in a doorway 
and looking rather disconsolate. Lidderdale, edging 
and dodging, made his way round the room, and went 
up to him. 

" What have you done with your partner ?" he said. 
" Why aren't you dancing ?" 

The young man blushed and smiled a little. "I 
can't dance every dance with Miss Craven,'^ he said, 
with a sort of humorous ingenuousness, "and I don't 
particularly care to dance with any one else." 

" Ah, you can't dance every dance with Miss Cra- 
ven ? I don't know why not," said Lidderdale. " Can 
you tell me where she is now ? I don't see her any- 
where here." 

"I don't see her, either; I haven't seen her since 
the dance began. Lady Martyn asked me to get her 
a cup of tea, and when I came back and looked for 
Euphemiaj she told me one of the stewards had come 
up and introduced some fellow — ^you know it's a sort 
of public-private ball — and so my chance to ask her 



148 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

was gone. If no one bad come^ I believe I sbould 
have taken courage — though 'we are engaged for th« 
next waltz." 

" 1 wish to Heaven you had," said Lidderdale. " In 
a public-private ball, as you call it, like this, people 
ought to dance only in their own party. Do you 
know what this fellow, as you call hfm, was like ?" 

"Not a bit. As I tell you, I haven't seen them 
since. It's too bad," the young man went on, at once 
smiling and growling. " If people don't want to dance, 
at least they needn't take one's partners away. I sup- 
pose they're sitting out somewhere. I hate people to 
sit out." 

"Why didn't you look after your partner better, 
thenf said Lidderdale. He stood watching the dan- 
cers for a moment, as though hoping to see Euphemia's 
charming head emerge, then turned again to his com- 
panion. "I must find Miss Craven at once," he said. 
"Her mother is not very well, and I want to take 
them home. I don't believe she is in any of those 
rooms; I have jnst come through them. Perhaps she 
is on the terrace." 

He pushed and elbowed his way among the throng 
of people, with little regard to their convenience, and 
made his way through one of the long windows onto 
the terrace. It lay wide and empty ; the dancers had 
all crowded in-doors ; only a few of the older people 
remained, seated on chairs set back against the wall, 
fanning themselves and exchanging vague remarks in 
subdued voices. Broad bands of light from the open 
windows fell across the pavement and the orange-trees 
set in tubs, further illuminated by a hundred colored 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 14i 

lamps Buspended abcwe the balustrade. The scene, 
with the lights in the valley below and the darkness 
of the opposing hills against the profound starlit bine 
of the summer sky, struck Lidderdale as fantastically, 
incongruously pretty, like some stage decoration in a 
fairy drama, not at all as a fitting background for hu- 
man anxieties and emotions. He looked up and down 
the terrace without seeing Euphetnia, and the fact 
caused him an extraordinary, an unreasoning anxiety; 
he felt as if she might have been spirited away, as if 
search for her were already in vain. A moment later, 
however, he discovered her at the farther end of the 
terrace from where he was standing. She must have 
been sea4:ed on one of the benches set between the big 
tubs of plants ranged against the villa wall; for he 
saw her white figure start up and move forward a step 
or two out of the shadow into the red and orange re- 
flections of the lamps beyond. She paused there with 
her back towards him, and Lidderdale perceived then 
that she had a companion who had risen also and was 
confronting her, who was taking her hand in his. 
The next moment he recognized this companion as 
Richard Craven. 

Iddderdale's first sensation as he rapidly walked the 
length of the terrace towards them was that the game 
was up, that things must be left now to take their 
chance. This realization of what he had feared gave 
him a greater shock than he could have anticipated. 
He involuntarily stopped a second as he approached 
the two, and in the same moment Enphemia's whole 
frame seemed to stiffen and recoil a little. She turned 
her head in his direction, her lovely frightened eyes 



150 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

met his ; she came quickly towards him, and with a 
movement that touched him extremely, laid her hand 
upon his arm. Lidderdale drew her closer to him, and 
turned to Craven, who had followed. 

"What have you been saying to her?" he asked, 
with anger in his voice. 

Craven did not immediately reply. " What have I 
been saying, Euphemia ?" he said, then, with a curious 
gentleness of accent. "After sixteen years a father 
may be allowed to claim his own child," he continued, 
addressing Lidderdale. 

"It depends upon how the claim is made," Lidder- 
dale responded. "Don't be frightened," he said to 
Euphemia, " there is nothing in all this that need hurt 
you." 

She looked at him with parted lips, her touching 
face paler than he had ever before seen it. "I don't 
understand," she said, faltering a little. " Is it true ?" 

Lidderdale hesitated a moment ; it was in his mind 
to deny the whole story, and defy Craven to prove it, 
but he immediately perceived that the lie might be not 
only wrong, it would also be futile. The truth, for 
better or worse, would have to be known now. He 
took Eiiphemia's hand in his. " Yes, I believe it to be 
true," he said. 

She gazed before her in silence, and he perceived 
that though she might, after some bewildered fashion, 
accept the fact, she had not in the least grasped it; 
she had not begnn to realize that the stranger before 
her could possibly be the father of whom she had no 
memory, of whom she had hardly heard. No doubty 
in her secret mind, she had held him in the shadowy 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 151 

reverence in which children hold the unknown dead, 
but the reality before her could have no connection 
with that. All at once, however, she withdrew her 
hand from Lidderdale's arm. 

" Where is mamma ?" she said. " She mustn't come 
here ; she mustn't hear of this suddenly. It would be 
too dreadful." 

" You think it might startle her ?" said Craven, gen- 
tly as before. "Will you come and find her with me, 
Enphemia? I think she will perhaps bear it." 

The young girl shrank back again as he drew nearer. 
" Don't you know — surely you know — " she faltered. 
She looked imploringly at Lidderdale and dropped her 
face in her hands. He led her a few paces along the 
terrace. 

"You will find your mother waiting for you in 
there," he said, showing her the window of the room 
in which he had left Helen. " She is tired, and anx- 
ious to go back to the hotel at once. I will come to 
you immediately. Not you," he went on, laying a de- 
taining hand on Craven's arm as Enphemia's white 
dress disappeared within the window. " Do yon want 
to kill those two poor women ? Be content for to-night, 
at any rate, with what you have done." 

" I don't know what the devil you mean," said Cra- 
ven, without heat, "or who gave yousthe right to in- 
terfere ; but if you think I'm going to let my daughter 
escape me again you are mistaken. I intend to keep 
an eye upon her; I don't trust my wife for a moment." 

" At any rate, don't tell her daughter so," said lid- 
derdale. "Bespect her innocence and ignorance. Don't 
you see that she hasn't an idea but that the news of 



15S AN exquisite; fool. 

your being alive must, under the circumstances, come 
as a tremendous shock on her mother ? She, at least, 
must never know the contrary. As for keeping an eye 
upon her, I am ready to give you my word that you 
shall see her again, if you will leave those poor things 
unmolested to-night. Yon have effectually put an end 
to the situation as it was; that was what you intended 
to do, and what, in a sense, you had a perfect right to 
do. Of course, I'm not denying that, though after 
sixteen years' neglect your right may be held to have 
grown a trifle rusty. But whether you will have gained 
anything by it remains to be proved. Euphemia has 
no feeling for you ; you must have seen that for your- 
self. How should she have ? Did you expect her to 
fall on your neck like a stage heroine? She knows 
nothing about you, she doesn't believe in you, and she 
adores her mother. If you bully your wife she will 
simply hate you, and small blame to her." 



CHAPTER XIII. 

LiDDEBDALB spoko with extreme bitterness, and in 
fact he felt sore and bitter enough, angry with him- 
self for not having prevented this meeting, for not 
having given Helen better advice, for not having fore- 
seen that things wonld inevitably happen as they had 
happened. He did not wait for Craven's answer, but 
leaving him standing there on the terrace, re-entered 
the house in search of Euphemia and her mother. 
On his way he ran against Hugh Severne, who stopped 
and accosted him with an air of perturbation. 

"What is the matter? Has anything happened?" 
he inquired. " I have just seen Mrs. Bromley and 
her daughter into their carriage. You said Mrs. Brom- 
ley wasn't well, but it was Miss Craven who looked 
ill. I hardly liked to let them go alone, but Mrs. 
Bromley insisted on it." 

" They are gone — that is the point," said Lidderdale. 
" The rest of the story will keep ; I can't tell it you 
now, my dear fellow. But if yon care to have a lift 
back to your hotel I can take you down the hill, pro- 
vided you don't bore me with questions on the way." 

When Lidderdale arrived at the Hotel de I'Europe, 
he was told that Mrs. Bromley had returned, and at 
his request he was shown into Helen's sitting-room. 
A lamp was burning there, but the room was empty ; 
the long windows stood wide open to the night and 
the silent promenade; the carriages had not yet be- 



154 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

gun to roll back from the lighted villa above ; he could 
hear the murmur of the stream that, fresh with the 
memory of pastoral valleys, flows through the decorat- 
ed little town. Lidderdale waited a long time, so long 
that he began to think Helen must have been left un^ 
informed of his arrival. He was extremely unwilling 
to go away without communicating with her, and af- 
ter a period of uneasy suspense he at last rang the 
bell and begged that he might speak to Mrs. Brom- 
ley's maid. That self-respecting person presently ap- 
pearing intimated that her mistress had been made 
aware of Mr. Lidderdale's visit, but that she was at 
that moment engaged with Miss Euphemia, who had 
come home tired and unwell from the ball ; she would 
be much obliged if Mr. Lidderdale could wait a few 
minutes ; she hoped to be down almost immediately. 

The woman went away, and Lidderdale waited 
again. He began turning over the books on the table 
to pass away the time ; among them he found a little 
volume of his own verse, two or three poetical dramas 
and some fugitive pieces that he had published a good 
many years previously and almost forgotten. He took 
it up, and dropping into an arm-chair by the lamp, be- 
came so far interested in the contents that he started 
at last when the striking of a French clock on a mar- 
ble console apprised him that half an hour had elapsed 
since the maid left the room. He threw down the 
volume, suddenly recalled to the more poignant drama 
of the immediate moment, and began walking up and 
down. Helen could not be coming, he decided final- 
ly ; something must have detained her, and she would 
conclude that he had gone away. He paused in his 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 156 

walk, standing with his hands thrnst deep in his pock- 
ets, lost in reflection for some five minutes ; then go- 
ing up to the writing-table he ransacked Helen's blot- 
ting-book for a sheet of note-paper, and sitting down, 
dashed o£E a letter of three pages. He had just en- 
closed it in an envelope and addressed it to Mrs. Brom- 
ley when the door of the adjoining room opened and 
Helen came in. 

She had taken o£E her rustling brocades, and was 
dressed in the quiet - colored muslin with loose, open 
sleeves she had worn in the afternoon. She looked 
extremely tired, and her hair, loosened a little in re- 
moving the diamond pins from it, gave a certain soft- 
ness to her face that was sometimes wanting. Lidder- 
dale, indeed, perceived at once as he put his note in 
his pocket and rose to draw forward a chair for her 
that she was more '^ natural " than he had ever seen her 
before. He did not believe, indeed, that Helen could 
be completely natural ; he had sometimes said to him- 
self (that was in her happiest moments) that had she 
known how to be simple she would have been irresist- 
ible; but besides the fact that a certain amount of 
pose was native to her, he had long since divined that 
she was a woman who had resolved to put a hard and 
brilliant surface on an unhappy life, and that her 
frankest moments were calculated. She might be, she 
frequently was, frank, but she could never in her life 
have been candid. To-night, however, there was very 
little brilliance, and the surface was worn very thin, and 
the fact touched him greatly. She sat down in the 
chair he pushed forward for her, and looked up at him 
with the beautiful eyes that seemed to have grown 



156 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

twice too large for her face. She made no apologies 
for keeping him waiting. 

^* Euphemia is asleep at last," was all she said, ^' I 
couldn't leave her before." 

^' She was agitated, do yoa mean ?" 

" Not exactly agitated, that is not her way, but 
grieved, bewildered, wanting to know a hundred things 
I cannot and will not tell her, life seems to her bro- 
ken to pieces for the moment. All that on my account, 
you know ; what she thinks of her father I have not 
asked, I shall never ask. But she assumes" — she put 
her handkerchief to her lips — ^'she assumes that all 
this is as great — a greater shock to me than to her. 
The farce has not been amusing." 

Lidderdale took one or two turus up and down the 
room. " What do you think of doing?" he said, stop- 
ping short in front of her. " What about to-morrow ? 
You were all to have left by an early train." 

" Ah, what we were to have done I It is late to 
think of that now. I have sent word to the squire," 
she went on in a moment, ^^ that Euphemia is unwell, 
and that we cannot start to-morrow morning as was 
proposed. Of what use would it be now? Euphemia 
knows I For myself, sooner or later, I shall go away, 
of course. I had hoped, as you know, to spare Eu- 
phemia all this, to see her married first, to set myself 
free without distressing her too much. But as matters 
are now, my position here is not tenable for a moment." 

" You will go away — do you propose to take Euphe- 
mia with you?" 

" Do you advise it ?" 

^^ Oh, I advise nothing," said Lidderdale, rather hat- 



▲N EXQUISITE FOOL. Ift7 

tily. He stood for a moment with bent bead, his eyes 
fixed on the ground. '' No, I advise nothing," he re* 
peated. 

" That is wise of you ; the part of counsellor to my 
affairs has no such great distinction. No, I don't pro- 
pose to take Euphemia. She will have the squire, of 
whom she is fond, and who I think will be good to 
her — or if not, there is young Severne, who will be 
good to her as soon as she will allow it ; finally, she 
will have you. No, it would do Euphemia no good 
in any way, it would do her harm to take her with me. 
I shall go alone." « 

Lidderdale did not immediately respond ^ he stood 
in the same attitude, his eyes bent on the ground. 
"Euphemia will feel it extremely," he murmured at 
last. 

A flash he did not see came into Helen's sombre 
eyes ; she threw back her head, lifting her chin a little 
as she regarded him. " She will feel it, of course," she 
said, abruptly. " There is no law that I know of to 
exempt her from the common suffering of humanity. 
But she is not of a nature to -receive a permanent im- 
pression, she has life before her, she will be happy 
again presently." 

She rose as she spoke and held out her hand. 
"Good -night," she said. "You had something, I be- 
lieve, to say to me, but, frankly, I am too tired to listen 
to it. It must be for another time." 

"I had — I had — " said Lidderdale. "But perhaps 
you are right. You must excuse me, I am tired and 
stupid, too." He was, in fact, exceedingly tired ; he 
had hardly slept the previous night, he had been walk- 



158 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

ing about the whole day, and her sadden change of 
tone disconcerted him. " I don't, I can't, advise you," 
he said, '^ but I can at least entreat you to do noth- 
ing without due consideration. Yes, I had something 
to say to you ; but I will come, with your permission, 
the first thing to-morrow morning." 

" Very well, to-morrow," said Helen. She moved 
towards the door as though to show that she was in 
earnest in wishing him to leave her, and gave him her 
hand carelessly, negligently. They parted with hardly 
a pressure of the fingers. 

Lidderdale ran quickly d^wn-stairs ; the lights were 
already out, the house closed, only the night porter 
was in the hall. The man rose to open the door and 
let him out ; but on the threshold Lidderdale paused 
and gave him the note he had written a quarter of an 
hour previously. 

" Kindly let Mrs. Bromley have this at once," he 
said. " You will find her still, I believe, in her sitting- 
room." 

He heard the door close behind him as he crossed 
the road on his way to his hotel. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

Helen remained standing motionless for a while 
after Lidderdale had left her, with a sense of darkness, 
of something — she hardly knew what — missed through 
her own perversity. The irrevocable had, for her, taken 
so early in life the shape of an immense catastrophe 
that she had rarely troubled herself with those smaller 
tragedies out of which some women contrived to weave 
a sufficiently intricate drama of life ; but now she felt 
an almost irresistible impulse to send after Lidderdale, 
to beg him to come back j she was dismayed by the 
coldness of their parting. She was still standing, her 
hand resting on the table, her eyes fixed on the door 
by which he had disappeared, when the porter to whom 
Lidderdale had given the note came in to deliver it. 
Helen took it from him in silence, glanced at the ad- 
dress, and immediately understood that it was the note 
she had seen Lidderdale thrust into his pocket on 
her entrance. She waited to open it until the man 
was gone, then, locking the door on his retreating form, 
sat down by the lamp to read it. It was not very legi- 
ble; Lidderdale had dashed it off hurriedly with various 
erasures ; but she was accustomed to his handwriting, 
and made it out without too much difficulty. 

"In the event of my not being able to see you this 
evening," it ran, " I write these half-dozen words to 
say what I had hoped to say to you in person. I don't, 
of course, presume to make suggestions, still less to 



160 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

proffer advice as to your f nture action ; but I came 
here to assure you, if such assurance is needed, that in 
every or any case I am absolutely at your service. I 
gather from various things you have said in the course 
of our talks together this last day or two that you 
think of going away (and I see how that might solve 
certain difficulties of the moment) ; but, for Heaven's 
sake, I entreat you, do nothing rash or precipitate. 
You can't go wandering about the world alone ; that, 
at least, is certain. Eupheraia — " this word was dashed 
through. " If, in fact, you make up your mind to go 
away for a time, keep me informed. I will precede 
you, I will meet you wherever you like, and make 
every arrangement for your comfort. You spoke of 
the East ; well, let us see the East together I 

" I will call again the first thing to-morrow morning. 
— G. L." 

Lidderdale had been very dissatisfied with this note, 
which he dashed off in an impulse of sympathy with, 
and compassion for, his unhappy friend, and in the 
dread of some extravagant move on her part. Did he 
or did he not wish to be taken at his word ? He could 
himself hardly have said, and that gave the words to 
his own apprehension a ring of insincerity. On the 
whole, he had decided to let them stand. He was sin- 
cere enough in his desire to be of use; there was no 
unreality in that. Helen read the note through and let 
the paper fall on her knee while she sat plunged in pro- 
found and gloomy thought. She was in no want of 
subject for meditation, and the silence of the deepen- 
ing night aided her, the quiet of the sleeping house, the 
stillness that from half-hour to half-hour had fallen 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 161 

upon the little town. Presently she felt as if she were 
alone in the world, as if every one had died or was gone 
from her ; the very room looked strange, as though she 
had come back after a long absence and found every- 
thing changed. 

She roused herself with a slight shiver, and taking 
u{) Lidderdale's note read it again, turning once more 
to the close when she had read it through a second 
time. At the words, " I will precede you, I will meet 
you wherever you like, and make every arrangement 
for your comfort " — it was precisely there that Lidder- 
dale, becoming conscious of a certain lameness and 
impotence of expression (he felt that he was writing 
like a courier), had nearly blotted out the sentence — 
she almost laughed, crushing up the paper sharply 
between her fingers. She immediately smoothed it out 
again, however, and rising, lamp in hand, moved away 
to her writing-table by the farther window. There 
she sat for a moment, gazing before her with eyes 
dimmed and veiled by fatigue, yet hardly less beautiful 
than usual ; then drawing a sheet of note-paper towards 
her, wrote rapidly in her clear and beautiful hand- 
writing : 

" You, my poor friend, who hate a scandal, to pro- 
pose planting yourself in the very heart of my unhappy 
complications ! No, I am not so unfair as to accept, 
much less to demand, such a sacrifice. Nor am I so 
helpless as you imagine. In the first place, I have 
money, not much, it is true, but enough to keep me 
from starvation for a month or two, and give me time 
to look about me; in the next place, I am not at all 

afraid of travelling alone — why should I be ? and 
11 



162 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

finally — and that tempts me, I own — I have the means 
to end everything in a moment, if I choose. Still, I 
thank you from my heart, since I have a heart, I assure 
you, whatever may be said. Enough of all that. 

" If I live, you shall some day hear of me. If not, 
rest contented that it is because I have simply felt that 
life has no more possibilities, and that for me, for 
every one concerned with me, death is best. I value 
life enormously; don't imagine the contrary; but only 
in view of its possibilities. Perhaps I overrate them ; 
I cannot tell ; so few have come my way. If I could 
live my life over again — but that is the most hanal of 
phrases. I can imagine, however, that I was meant for 
something better than all this; we have often talked 
of that together, you will remenaber. Enfin^ you will 
find me gone to-morrow morning when you get here. 
I am sorry — sorry, I mean, not to wish you good-bye, 
if that mattered — but obviously the only thing left 
for me is to go away. You accredit me with courage, 
but I have, in fact, very little courage in certain direc- 
tions. If I had had more, I should have arranged my 
life differently. 

" I am tired to death, and, literally, hardly know 
what I am writing; but I believe I have expressed my 
meaning clearly enough. — Helen." 

She closed and addressed this letter, and laying it on 
the centre -table, passed into the adjoining bedroom. 
Euphemia slept in a smaller room communicating with 
this ; the squire and his man-servant, who never left 
him, occupied rooms on the opposite side of the corri- 
dor. Helen exchanged her dress for a long, loose 
wrapper, and removed the pins from her hair ; it was 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 168 

nearly two in the morning, and she had sent her maid 
to bed long before. Her dressing-case stood on the 
table ; she took from it, in notes and gold, a sum of 
money amounting to about £100, secured it in a small 
leather pocket-book, and put it, with a few necessaries, 
in her large dressing-bag. The bag was heavy, she 
found, as she lifted it onto a chair, too heavy for her to 
carry with ease; and she proceeded to take out of it 
various silver -topped bottles with which it was fitted. 
Among them was a vial of opium, one that she kept by 
her always, taking a small quantity occasionally when 
she was more sleepless than usual. She held it in her 
hand now, looking at it fixedly for a while. There was 
the means to end everything, as she had said to Lid- 
derdale, the short, the easy solution of her troubles; 
but it did not appeal to her — not at that moment. She 
would not even take her ordinary dose to-night ; she 
was afraid of sleeping too heavily, of not awaking in 
time. Nor would she go to bed ; a death-like fatigue 
was on her, and she dreaded giving way to it entirely, 
lest the power to rouse herself should fail. She re- 
placed the opium in the bag, concluded her prepara- 
tions for the next day, and then, half -dressed as she 
was, lay down on the sofa for two or three hours' rest. 

She had thought herself too tired to sleep, as she 
was too tired to think ; but a feeling like annihilation 
came over her, her eyes closed, and in a few minutes 
she was sleeping profoundly. It was probable by an 
unconscious exercise of the will that she awoke again 
some three hours later, at the time on which she had 
decided in her own mind before lying down. She 
awoke from a strangely vivid dream, in which she 



164 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

fancied herself wandering alone in the streets of some 
foreign* city she had never seen in life, but that she 
seemed to herself to have visited in some former 
dream, about which some sinister association hung. 
She had no recollection of how she got there, and 
that perplexed and harassed her ; but she kifew she 
was there because her first husband had come back, 
and that she could never go home again. All at once 
she saw Lidderdale coming towards her in the strange 
colorless twilight of a dream. '' It is all a mistake," 
he said, "Richard Craven died years ago in Australia; 
come back at once." But in the same moment she 
saw without surprise that it was Craven, not Lidder- 
dale, who was at her side ; they were standing on the 
embankment of a river that flowed through the town, 
and he was dragging her with irresistible force down 
to the water. With a horrible heart-throb Helen 
awoke and started up, trembling all over, to a sitting 
posture on the couch. " Thank God, it is all a dream," 
she said, looking round the room and recognizing one 
familiar object and another in the clear gray morning 
light ; but the next moment she wondered to find her- 
self on the sofa, and then with a sickening, an in- 
expressible pang, she remembered everything. The 
wrench from her past, felt in that first tragic moment 
of renewed life, seemed more than she could bear. 

With the memory of what had happened, however, 
came the recollection of what she had resolved to do. 
She shook herself free from the influence of her dream 
and began to dress in haste, putting on a dark travel- 
ling costume, twisting up the thick coils of her hair 
under a plain straw hat and veil. One diamond 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 165 

ring that had belonged to her mother she kept on her 
finger, the rest of her trinkets and jewels she left scat- 
tered on the toilet-table as she had laid them down the 
night before. " How careless of Millar," she thought, 
mechanically, and then remembered that she had sent 
the maid to bed before taking them ofi. She made no 
attempt to arrange or put them away now ; they were 
all of them gifts from Mr. Bromley, and nothing to 
her henceforward. But she looked at them strangely as 
she lifted up one or two and laid them down again on 
the table — this, then, was the end of so much ! Dia- 
monds could not purchase happiness? She had never 
supposed they could, Helen would have replied, had any 
one addressed to her this obvious truism ; but they had 
a beauty of their own, and they symbolized for her 
wliat she had thought worth an immense moral sacri- 
fice. It could never have occurred to her, however, to 
take the jewels with her. Helen had made a terrible 
business of her life, but she had not the instincts of an 
adventuress ; it would have been impossible for her to 
contemplate, for a moment leaving the man she had 
deceived, laden with the spoils of his generosity. If 
she took with her so much as £100 it was because it 
represented her economies; she had denied herself 
something to keep it; and if her economies had 
not been greater, it was in part, at least, because a 
scruple of delicacy and pride had kept her from accu- 
mulating a private purse of her own. A hundred 
pounds represented little enough to her in view of her 
yearly expenditure. She swept her trinkets together 
into a heap, and passed noiselessly into the adjoining 
room. 



166 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

The curtains were undrawn, and the brightening 
light showed Euphemia asleep. Her mother had no 
mind to awake her, no desire to speak any words of 
tenderness or farewell. Her heart felt like a stone ; 
Euphemia's un happiness weighed so little beside her 
own ; she had all her young life before her. Never- 
theless, she stood for a moment looking at the young 
girl as she lay there, quietly breathing in the deep and 
tranquil sleep of youth that had fallen on her after 
last night's agitation. Well, she had been a good 
mother to her ; that, at least, she could assert to her- 
self ; and if the maternal passion was not the strongest 
element in her nature, Euphemia, she felt certain, had 
never found it out. Mrs. Bromley had often rejoiced 
that Fate had given her a daughter like Euphemia, 
whom it was easy to love, and who demanded no ex- 
traordinary demonstration of tenderness; she didn't 
know what she should have done with an ugly, or ex- 
acting, or cross-grained child. She picked up one of 
Euphemia's long white gloves that had strayed onto 
the floor, smoothed it out, and laid it with its fellow 
on the dressing-table; then, with a parting glance 
round the room to see that nothing else was amiss, 
closed the. door behind her noiselessly as she had en- 
tered. 

She went on into the sitting-room, taking up her 
travelling-bag as she passed. Here she stood motion- 
less for a long time, looking about her at one thing and 
another. The windows were open as she had left them 
the night before, and the room in the early light had 
that aspect at once strange and accustomed with which 
every one is familiar who enters an apartment at such 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 16'}' 

nnwonted hour. Yesterday's life was still there, and ^ 
close on its heels the life of the coming day. It was 
only a hotel room, but it was filled, as Helen had the 
trick of filling any room that she had inhabited for a 
time, with her more intimate personal possessions, and 
as she looked about her now, it seemed to her that she 
was abandoning the very web and texture of her life. 
Her embroidery frame pushed back as she had left it 
yesterday, the paper-knife in her half-read volume (it was 
a new publication, a volume of French essays brought 
to her by Lidderdale, who had the habit of supplying 
her with recent literature), pricked her with a more sen- 
sible pang than her silent parting with Euphemia. 
She sat down on the chair by the window, the same 
chair in which she had sat and talked to Lidderdale 
yesterday. Two insensate and contradictory longings 
tore at her. One was to take oflE her travelling-dress 
and go back to bed — she was terribly tired still, not- 
withstanding her two or three hours' rest, and the cool 
sheets and quiet pillows wooed her almost irresisti- 
bly — then rise in the morning as though nothing had 
happened, defying Fate to do its worst to a mortal who 
would not yield to it. The other was to take from her 
bag the little vial she had so long had by' her, and 
compel that deeper sleep of which she had so often 
thought. That would be the easiest ; nothing could 
be so easy as that. It was only to banish thought and 
fear and conjecture, to constrain the mind for two min- 
utes to a perfect blank, and accomplish a simple phys- 
ical act. The matter was so brief, the means so rapid, 
the end so sure. 

It was the thought of Euphemia that held her back 



|g8 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

from that now. She had a prevision of Euphemia, 
with that strange grief on her mind, awaking earlier 
than usual, going to seek her mother in her bedroom, 
and not finding her there, passing on into the sitting- 
room. The shock, the horror of the situation, the odi- 
ous stir in the hotel, the revolting details, grew as pres- 
ently vivid to Helen's mind as if she had seen them 
accomplished. She might have no passion of mater- 
nal affection, but she had a keen sense of the indignity 
brought to her daughter by all that was ignoble in such 
a catastrophe, and of the miserable darkening of her 
young and ignorant life. No, if she were going to 
die, let her creep into some corner and die apart, after 
the decent fashion of the brute creation. And after 
all there need be no question of dying yet ! The early 
morning sounds in the hotel and in the street below 
stirred her, on the contrary, to immediate action. She 
rose from her seat, drawing on her gloves, and went 
up to one of the long mirrors to arrange her veil as if 
she were going for an ordinary walk. She was ex- 
traordinarily pale, her eyes a little sunken, the lines of 
her face a little drawn by fatigue and the emotions she 
had gone through; but she was hardly less beautiful 
than usual, and the fact came on her as a sort of sur- 
prise, a gleam of satisfaction even. Where so mucli 
was changed and gone, it seemed as if that might be 
gone also. She looked round the room once more. It 
was terrible to her to leave it all ; what dreary future 
lay before her, what chill or burning deserts? The 
half-read volume she put in her travelling-bag, and a 
little silver pen-holder that Lidderdale had once given 
her, and that she had the habit of using. She took 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 169 

nothing else. On the centre-table lay the letter she 
had written the night before ; her mind ran through 
its contents and those of that other letter to which it 
was an answer, and the memory awoke for a moment 
her slight rallying smile. But the next moment her 
eyes had filled with tears. She took the letter up, and 
remembering that in a few hours Lidderdale's hand 
would touch the paper she was holding now, she put 
it for an instant to her lips. A minute afterwards she 
was on her way down-stairs. 

The hotel was in movement by this time, the men 
sweeping down the big staircase, washing the pave- 
ment of the entrance hall. They stood aside and made 
way for Helen to pass. Their observation was indif- 
ferent to her so long as there was no one to stop her 
progress; an early morning walk has nothing remark- 
able in it in Baden, and she had not supposed she could 
leave the hotel without being seen. Outside, the morn- 
ing air, the early sweetness of the day, lightened the 
immediate weight on her spirits. That touch of Bohe- 
mianism that Lidderdale had long since recognized in 
her nature came for a moment to the front. She had 
very rarely been abroad at this hour, and the novelty 
of finding herself alone, without encumbrances, with- 
out luggage, and the world^as it were, spread before 
her under the shining sky, gave a vivacity to those 
first moments that she would have thought impossible 
in the poignant wrench with which but now she had 
torn herself from her old life. It was the reaction, the 
rush of vitality again after the horrible darkness from 
which the deeper darkness of death bad seemed the 
only escape. After all, she was still alive I Yes, not 



170 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

only the dreadful complication that had wound itself 
about her life urged her forward, but that longing for 
escape and new experience of which she had spoken 
to Lidderdale, and to which the freshness of the hour 
lent some illusion of hope. She had not walked for 
five minutes, however, when the weight of the bag she 
carried — still more, perhaps, a sentiment of discom- 
fort, of something unseemly in her carrying a bag 
of that size at all — began to incommode her, and 
she looked about for a conveyance. The road lay al- 
most empty in the sunshine, the day's traflSc hardly 
yet begun ; but in a moment an omnibus went rattling 
by to the station, and immediately afterwards an open 
fly came loitering along on the chance of an early fare. 
In the midst of the anxieties, the anguish of the last 
four-and-twenty hours, Helen had found herself inca- 
pable of shaping any very definite plan of action ; but 
she was aware that an early train left Baden at about 
this hour, and postponing any further decision for the 
moment, she had simply decided to let herself, in the 
first instance, be conveyed by it to the farthest point 
available. She hailed the carriage now, and depositing 
her bag on the seat, was about to step into it, when one 
of the porters of the Hotel de I'Europe (she was hard- 
ly a hundred yards distjyit from the hotel) saw and 
recognized her. Touching his cap, he came up to close 
the door of the vehicle and give her directions to the 
driver. 

The man's action disconcerted Helen. She had not 
counted on being able to leave the hotel unnoticed, but 
she had no intention that her further movements should 
be observed. "Desire the coachman to drive along the 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 171 

Lichtenthaler AUee," she said ; " I will tell him when 
to turn." The carriage rolled away, the porter stand- 
ing and watching it from the road, and Helen allowed 
it to pursue its course far down the leafy avenues, while 
a new scheme matured itself in her mind. She would 
not, she decided, go to the station ; the risk was too 
great of meeting some one there who would at least 
know her by sight. (Helen was not unaware how many 
people were likely to know her by sight in Baden ; a 
certain observation had always attended her progress 
through the world ; she would have missed that silent 
homage had it been withdrawn.) She would have her- 
self driven over the mountains. There was a little vil- 
lage, some seven or eight hours oflE, high up in the for- 
est, where, as she knew through guide-books and report, 
she could, if necessary, spend the night; and thence 
on the morrow, or indeed the same evening, if fresh 
horses could be procured, be driven down into the 
plains again, and take train for Vienna or elsewhere. 
In this way, all going smoothly, she might hope to be 
well beyond reach before the carriage, returning to 
Baden, should be able to bring news of her. The plan 
recommended itself to Helen, not because it was very 
good — as a measure of immediate self-eflEacement it 
had obvious disadvantages — but because she happened 
to have heard of this route, and no other suggested it- 
self to her. Mrs. Bromley, who was as practical as a 
woman of strong intellectual capacity is apt to be, and 
managed her household to perfection, knew very little 
about travelling. Since her journeys to and from Paris 
twenty years back, she had never until now been abroad. 
She had, as she had told Lidderdale, no fear in travel- 



ir^ AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

ling alone ; she merely felt that her immediate resources 
were limited by her very limited experience. She 
stopped the carriage before it had reached the end of 
the Lichtenthaler Alice, and proceeded to give instruc- 
tions to the driver concerning the road she wished to 
follow. 

The man, a surly, red -bearded fellow, at once de- 
murred. His horse — and, in fact, it was a sorry beast 
enough — was not, he declared, up to the work. Seven 
hours ? It was a good ten hours' drive to the place she 
named, and no possibility of changing horses on the 
way. It would not, and he confirmed this statement 
with an oath, be worth his while to do it ; he would 
drive his fare back to Baden, and let her find another 
carriage there — that was all he would consent to do. 
Helen listened in dismay. This check at the outset of 
her undertaking left her absolutely at a loss; it was 
too late now, she ascertained on consulting her watcij^ 
for the train she had at first thought of taking, and to 
drive back into Baden in search of another conveyance 
was not to be thought of. She presently discovered, 
however, that the man was merely talking with a view 
to raising the value of his services, and that no consid- 
eration for his horse was likely to interfere with his 
concluding a good bargain. The sum he demanded ap- 
peared to her exorbitant, but she was not in the mood 
to dispute it. She agreed to everything he asked, re- 
questing him only to raise the hood of the carriage, 
and to make the journey with as little delay as possi- 
ble. The driver, whose experienced eye had at once 
taken the measure of his fare, and foreseen this con- 
clusion from the beginning, turned his horse's head ; 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 173 

and a few minutes later the carriage was engaged 
among the pine woods, as it began its slow ascent of 
the forest-covered hills. 

Helen leaned back within the shelter of the hood — 
she had a dread even here of some stray glance that 
might recognize her — and gazed at the endless per- 
spective of slender tree stems and horizontal boughs 
that opened out before her. The check she had just 
received, without in any way changing her purpose, 
had entirely quenched the slight movement of ardor 
with which she had set out. Some sense of escape she 
felt at first of danger and disaster left behind, and then, 
by degrees, a weight of loneliness and desolation set- 
tling down upon her. " What next, what next ?" she 
found herself saying again and again. Towards what 
was she travelling ? What end had she in view ? These 
were questions that she had hardly put to herself until 
ijow; they would have seemed merely impertinent and 
hindering to her immediate purpose of getting away ; 
but the moment was at hand that must make them in- 
evitable. She could not have remained ; that, in her 
more reasonable moments, she felt to be impossible. 
It was not a question of right or wrong, of expediency 
or inexpediency — these were old questions with her; 
she had settled them years ago. It was that she had 
always known that if Euphemia were once made aware 
of the truth, her own position would henceforth be un- 
tenable. The squire she could never see, she never de- 
sired to see again ; still less was any reconciliation with 
her first husband in her mind. No, she had done right 
to go away; but whither and to what? Into what 
bare and stripped and shivering world was she wan- 



174 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

dering? When her money was gone — and no one 
knew better than Helen how little £100 would do for 
her ; it seemed to herself that it would hardly suffice 
to buy the first necessaries of life — when it was all 
gone where was she to get more ? She wondered now 
that this idea of flight, which to a certain extent had 
occupied her mind for some time past, should not be- 
forehand have presented more difiiciilties to her; and 
then she perceived how greatly, until two days ago, 
she had counted upon her scheme that Lidderdale 
should marry Euphemia. It had been, in a sense, a 
counsel of desperation ; slie had known that all along ; 
it would have brought an abiding, a growing bitterness 
into her life, but it had been her one hope of salvation. 
The difference made by its failure was immense ; 
until now she had not measured it. Her head throbbed 
and ached at the thought; she opened her bag to take 
out her eau-de-cologne and looked for it in vain, until 
she remembered that it was in one of the silver-topped 
bottles she had left on her dressing-table. The want 
recalled to her the thousand details of the life she had 
abandoned — ^lier dress, her toilet, all that more exqui- 
site luxury without which, she had so often declared, 
no woman's life is complete. Helen found nothing 
common (that had been Lidderdale's word) in this con- 
ception of life ; for these things had always been to 
her perception — she had too fine an intelligence for it 
to be otherwise — less ends in themselves than sub- 
servient to a certain ideal of perfection. She won- 
dored vaguely now what would become of all her 
things — Euphemia cared so little for them — whether 
it would be possible to have her boxes sent after her. 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 175 

Her thoughts dwelt on this question for a while, con- 
sidering it this way and that, before she awoke to a 
sense of its futility. The fatal nature of the sacrifice 
she had made, a sacrifice in which she gave up every- 
thing for nothing, presented itself to her more and 
more clearly. It seemed to grow in intensity and 
reality from moment to moment ; she was finding ele- 
ments in it she could never have anticipated. Yes, 
greatly as she had dreaded this crisis in her fate, the 
reality, she said to herself, far outran the dread. The 
possibility of the catastrophe had been present to her 
for years, and yet she had never really believed that 
it would overtake her. There had been chances in her 
favor that she had counted on more than she knew — 
that was how it was: the chance that her husband 
might di^ out there in Australia, the more imminent 
chance that the squire might die here at home; per- 
haps also the chance that at the worst she might be 
able to control events with her own hand. Yes, she 
had counted on all these, and all had failed her. Even 
now it seemed incredible that it should all have hap- 
pened to her, precisely to her. There were moments 
w'hen nothing, it appeared to her, would be so simple 
as to tell the coachman to turn and drive back to 
Baden ; and then the reality of the terrible impasse in 
which she had set herself forced itself upon her again. 
She started upright in her seat, pressing her hands to 
her temples, stung intolerably by that sense of the inex- 
orable nature of things, of the impossibility of changing 
the implacable facts arrayed against her; then sank 
back again within the shelter of the hood. No, she 
could alter nothing, she could do nothing ; she felt as 



176 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

if she had lost all power to judge, to know even what 
she desired. She would think no more; her decision 
had been taken for the immediate hour, and the rest 
must be postponed. The carriage slowly wound its 
way upward through the warm pine-scented air; the 
morning had clouded over; up here in the woods 
the day felt close, even sultry, and the heavy gray 
cloud-layers seemed to weigh upon the tree-tops. A 
sense of estrangement, of immeasurable silence and 
isolation that was not freedom (it seemed to her that 
the dreaded fetters of poverty already hung heavy 
upon her), settled down upon Helen. She took up 
her book and tried to read, but failed ; she could uot 
fix her attention; the blank nothingness opening out 
before her forced her contemplation and took all mean- 
ing from the words. 

Towards noon the carriage halted at a little road- 
side inn, where it was to stop and rest for a couple of 
hours before undertaking the final and steeper ascent 
to the village wliere, if needful, she could pass tlie 
night. They had been much longer in accomplishing 
this part of their journey than Helen had anticipated; 
the driver, sure of his job, had refused to hurry or to 
heat his horse. He took it out of the carriage now, 
and Helen, alighting, wandered a short distance into 
the woods to await the moment of departure. She 
liad had no food that day, but she felt no desire to eat, 
and there was nothing inviting in the aspect of the 
homely little inn. She found a seat under a tree with- 
in view of the inn door, so that she might see the car- 
riage as soon as it should drive up — this enforced de- 
lay was painful to her, she had no desire to prolong 



AN ICXQUISITE FOOL. 177 

ft — and taking from her pocket a little gold-mounted 
etui and a small square of embroidery with which she 
had the habit of occupying such stray moments as 
these, she began to set her delicate stitches ; they 
served better than a book just then to keep off thought 
— the thought that threatened to push her to such bit- 
ter extremity. Presently a noise of loud laughter, of 
cries, and clapping of hands drew her attention to the 
inn door. She looked up and saw a whole party of 
tourists issue noisily and gayly onto the little open 
space in front of the inn ; three ladies, two of them 
young and equipped in the extreme of fashion, the 
third older and more quietly dressed, two gentlemen, 
and two children. They were Russians, Mrs. Bromley 
discovered in a moment, people apparently of a cer- 
tain fashion and consequence, and belonging, as she 
perceived at a glance, to a world wholly antipathetic 
to her ; the women looked fast, the men with their 
well-cut hair and irreproachable garments, had an air 
to her at once disagreeable and insignificant. They 
paid no attention to Helen, seated withdrawn a little 
among the trees ; the men clapped their hands, the 
younger women stood balancing themselves for a mo- 
ment on their high-heeled boots, then set off in a head- 
long race down the steep road. Helen watched them 
with a disdain in which she found some subtle com- 
pensation for a new and subtle pain. " What people I" 
she murmured to herself. "What a genre P^ The 
two children, shouting and flapping their arms, started 
in pursuit, but were immediately called back and capt- 
ured by the third lady, whom Helen now divined to 
be their governess. She took hold of each by the 

12 



178 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

hand and led them away among the woods, while the 
gentlemen, creaking their tight boots, and with cries of 
'' Brava, brava !" followed their companions at a leisure- 
ly pace down the hill. The children, meanwhile, hop- 
ping and pulling at the hand that held them, came 
along contentedly enough. 

" Miss Lawrence, let us go and see if we can find 
any flowers," one of them cried in English, as they 
approached Helen. 

" Yes, you may go ; don't run away too far," she 
said, releasing them. 

The children darted off. The Englishwoman, look- 
ing about her, seated herself after a little hesitation 
under a tree not far from Helen, and producing in her 
turn some trifle of needle-work from a small hand- 
bag that she carried, proceeded to occupy herself with 
it. Mrs. Bromley had not moved at her approach : 
these were not people from Baden ; they were too con- 
spicuous in appearance to have passed there unobserved, 
and she felt no disquietude at their presence ; she con- 
tinued to set her stitches, bestowing an occasional 
glance on the Englishwoman in her vicinity. The 
governess was of middle age, apparently, neither plain 
nor handsome, with decided movements and a sensible, 
neutral face. Helen saw her eyes furtively seeking 
and studying the details of her own perfectly simple 
but expensive travelling-dress, and understood that she 
was contrasting it with her own neat and unpretentious 
costume, and thinking, sensible as she was, that life 
would be much better worth living if one could afford 
to dress like that. Mrs. Bromley disliked governesses 
as a race, maintaining that the anomalies of their posi- 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 179 

tion made it an impossible one ; a woman of education 
who could efface herself to the point that should make 
her perfectly inoffensive in a household, must either 
lead a life in which it was inevitable her character 
should deteriorate, or be made of inferior material to 
begin with. That was Mrs. Bromley's theory; she 
had never been at the trouble to prove it, or to project 
herself into another point of view ; but she had acted 
on it consistently : Euphemia had never had a govern- 
ess. She saw nothing to change her opinion in the 
neat middle-aged person before her, on whom, on an- 
other occasion, she would hardly have bestowed a sec- 
ond thought. Now, however, a restless desire to escape 
from the dismal solitude of her own thoughts led her 
to address her companion. 

" You have your little charges in excellent order," 
she said. 

" Oh, one has to," answered the other, quickly, with 
the fragment of a smile. "They are very good chil- 
dren," she immediately added. 

" Still, children are always a certain trouble," said 
Helen, "you must find them so occasionally, I am sure. 
I should be sorry to occupy myself with other people's 
children — though I think it delightful in those who 
will undertake to do it," she ended, smiling. 

" One has to do it — there is nothing very delightful in 
that," replied the other, with an air of repellent frank- 
ness that confirmed Helen in her bad opinion of gov- 
ernesses. She knew all about that small social coin, tliis 
governess seemed to say, and preferred the good, hon- 
est half-pence of daily life to such untrustworthy gold. 
It was a manner displeasing to Mrs. Bromley, as a 



180 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

thick muddy boot thrust out obtrusively on a delicate 
carpet to prove the solid worth of the wearer in having 
trudged some miry lane; nothing could be more de- 
place. She herself had spoken with the charming 
voice and manner which were as inalienably a part of 
her social equipment as her inevitable grace of move- 
ment and the admirable poise of her head; and pres- 
ently the governess also softened and warmed a little 
as she went on talking. She found Helen sympathetic, 
apparently, for she began to relate the history of her 
life — a life whose details, however commonplace, had 
probably composed for her a drama of the most vivid 
interest. It was, in fact, the commonest, the most or- 
dinary of tales, a history. of broken fortunes and obscure 
struggles. She considered herself fortunate, she said, 
in conclusion ; she had now no relations dependent 
upon her, she was able to save a little money. What 
she dreaded most of all was to have no provision for 
the future — to look forward to a destitute old age. 
The governess told her story a little dryly, but with a 
simplicity that had in it something touching; and 
Helen listened, not in the least with sympathy — she 
found it all unutterably dreary ; she wished there were 
no such stories and no such people in the world — but 
with an interest that deepened into a sort of terror. 
It was as if a haunting spectre had suddenly taken 
shape before her eyes to claim her; this was the kind 
of existence that all her life she had dreaded. A des- 
titute old age ! Good God ! there was a dread to live 
with as a daily companion, to keep at arm's-length only 
through unendurable conditions. A cry sounded from 
among the trees ; one of the children had fallen down 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 181 

and hurt itself ; and the governess, rising, quickly hur- 
ried away to the scene of the catastrophe. It was no 
great matter, apparently; the crying ceased, and the 
three disappeared together deeper in the wood; but 
Helen remained gazing sombrely before her, her hands 
folded idly in her lap. 

The carriage was ready at last ; she got into it and 
recommenced the journey which appeared to her all 
at once to have become absolutely purposeless. She 
went on because she could not go back; there ap- 
peared to be no other reason. The carriage went now 
slowly, now more rapidly, as the road ascended or ran 
along the side of the hill ; there was no other variation 
in the drive, nor did the sky vary from its uniform 
lowering gray. Something heavy as lead weighed upon 
Helen's spirits also, even upon her senses ; now and 
then her eyes closed involuntarily to the monotonous 
swaying of the vehicle, and these brief moments of un- 
consciousness seemed to lengthen out the journey im- 
measurably. Already Baden, Lidderdale, Euphemia, 
her night of anguish and her anguished waking with 
the dawn, lay sunk below an infinite horizon ; and 
now it seemed as though months and years severed 
her from it all, and now as though a whirlwind had 
caught her and stripped her of all she cared for in life, 
to set her down in this dim and colorless solitude. 
The trees succeeded each other monotonously, limiting 
her view on every side ; the coachman, sitting a little 
sideways on the box, presented to her contemplation 
his impassive back, his greasy, turned-down collar, his 
shiny hat; the occasional crack of his whip, the dull 
tread of the horse's hoofs, were the only sounds that 



182 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

disturbed the silence. Helen's eyes closed again ; her 
head sunk back against the lining of the hood. 

She roused herself at last, shaking oflE resolutely the 
drowsiness that only added to her cruel sense of dis- 
comfort and strangeness, and opening her travelling- 
bag, took out the book she had brought with her; she 
would again try to read, she thought, and pass the time 
in that way. As she did so, her hand encountered 
Lidderdale's letter, that she had dropped into her bag 
the previous night after answering it. She had not 
looked at it since ; but she took it out now, and un- 
folding the paper, sat gazing down at it for a long 
time, with little consciousness of its contents at first, 
noticing only how the words were blotted and scored 
out, thinking how badly he had written in his hurry; 
and then, without her knowledge, as it were, or her 
permission, she found the tears pouring down her 
cheeks in an inexpressible longing for the friendship 
that had filled her life and made it — she had recosr- 
nized that long ago — alone supportable to her. " Well, 
let us see the East together !" Heavens, what a strange 
burning Paradise the words seemed to open out — with 
the remainder of the letter to stand like a wall of ice 
between it and her. And yet, with all his indiflEerence — 
she had measured his indifference to a hair's-breadth — 
she had never once deceived herself ; from beginning 
to end of their acquaintance she had known that it was 
with that finally that she had to reckon — she did not 
believe that he would willingly allow her to slip alto- 
gether out of his life. He was kind ; yes, and he was 
generous. 

All at once a thought, sudden, hateful, stifling, seemed 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 183 

to seize Helen by the throat, making her start upright 
in her seat again, half suffocated by an odious vision, 
the vision of what hidden dishonoring thought of her- 
self might lie behind Lidderdale's words. She sank 
back again almost immediately, but she could not at 
once get rid of the sense of suflEocation. One of the 
proudest of women, she had always, as Lidderdale had 
long ago divined, said to herself that she was a law to 
herself; and if, to meet what she held to be the cruel 
exigencies of her fate, she had chosen to arrange her 
conscience after her own fashion, it was no one's con- 
cern (that was her point of view) but her own. It was 
insufferable to her that a single assumption should be 
grounded upon her past, as if it had been a past forced 
upon her by a weakness helpless to resist; what she 
had done she had done of her own free will, and the 
fact that it was her choice justified her in her own eyes. 
The distinction might be a subtle one ; but it had had 
all the strength of a conviction to Helen ; to have it 
rudely disturbed now by the idea that had thrust itself 
upon her that Lidderdale had chosen to ignore it, treat- 
ing her future lightly because he held her past to have 
been light, stung her as the last insult. It was a thought 
that could not have occurred to her before ; she had 
looked at the matter from another point of view alto- 
gether. But now, in her weakness and loneliness, her 
imagination stood confronted by a terrible humiliation, 
held out to her by the hand from which she could least 
endure to accept it. A complicated, an indescribable 
passion and bitterness against Lidderdale filled her 
heart; she tore his letter through again and again, 
then crushing up the fragments in her hand, she flung 



184 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

them far away, out of sight among the pine-trees. The. 
next moment, with a movement that touched despair, 
she would have given the world to recall it; she had 
thrown away the last point of contact with her old life ; 
but it was too late. And after all, what did it matter, 
since all was at an end? Yes, all was at an end, and 
that also — that also was ended. Helen settled herself 
again in her seat ; her tears were gone, and she took 
up her book once more ; but she could not tell one 
word from another. She sat with her volume on her 
knee, her wide-open eyes fixed on the interminable 
procession of trees. "What next? what next?" she 
found herself repeating again ; and the future spread 
itself before her a dreadful blank. 



CHAPTER XV. 

Had Lidderdale, indeed, any such feeling towards 
Helen as she attribated to him ? He himself might 
have foand it hard to answer ; but, at least, when he 
awoke after a few hours' sleep, he was chiefly conscious 
that, wisely or unwisely, he had pledged himself to a 
line of conduct that he was bound to carry out. It 
did not occur to him to question how Helen would 
take his offer ; he had little doubt she would believe 
in its sincerity whether she accepted it or not ; and if 
she refused the service he proffered her, he could not 
imagine in which .direction she would turn. He did 
not repent ; his friendship for her was, in fact, too 
warm, his compassion too profound ; but he was per- 
fectly aware that in acting as he had done, in allowing 
the emotion that had gained on him in writing to carry 
him forward at last with a bound, he had probably let 
himself in, as the phrase is, for an immense amount 
of worry to which he could foresee no immediate end. 
For the moment, however, his anxiety to be of use to 
his unhappy friend, to spare her, as far as possible, any 
further diflBculties, predominated. He made half a doz- 
en different plans while dressing to lay before her, and 
at the earliest hour he thought it possible to ask for 
an interview, took his way to the Hotel de I'Europe. 

Early as it was, he found young Severne there be- 
fore him, lingering in front of the hotel. As Lidder- 
dale approached, he came to meet him. 



186 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

" Look here," he said, " what's up ? What's gone 
wrong ? There was something awfully the matter last 
night, I know ; but I don't know what it was, and I 
haven't liked to go in." 

"Well, don't go in," said Lidderdale. "There is 
something wrong — as wrong as possible ; but you could 
do no good, none in the world, as things are at pres- 
ent. Stay," he said, a sudden thought striking him, 
" you can be of use now, if you will. If Richard Cra- 
ven — yon know whom I mean ?" 

" Craven — ^who is he ?" 

" No, you don't know, of course. Well, in any case," 
said Lidderdale, "there's little use in making a mys- 
tery of the matter now. It's not a story that can be 
hidden under a bushel, more's the pity, and you may 
as well hear it from me as from any one else. Euphe- 
mia — Miss Craven's father, who we all thought died 
years ago in Australia, didn't die. He is alive at this 
moment, and turned up here a few days ago." 

Tonng Severne turned quite pale. " Good Lord !" 
he ejaculated. 

"Well, it's a wretched business, of course. This, 
however, is what I wanted to say in particular : if you 
should happen to see him about, speak to him, will you? 
Hold him in conversation, if you can. Of all things, I 
should wish to prevent his coming to the hotel until I 
have spoken to him again; he may make things un- 
pleasant for his wife and daughter — indeed, he has done 
so already. You know the man, don't you ? It was he 
who got himself introduced last night to Miss Craven." 

" That was her father ? Yes, I saw him afterwards. 
Good Lord !" 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 187 

"Well, don't, if you can prevent it, let him come in 
here. Euphemia, I suppose, will have to see him later 
on; but I should like her to be spared — her especially 
— as much as possible. It has been a great shock to 
her — chiefly on her mother's account ; that is easy to 
understan(^ under the circumstances." 

" She's not ill ?" cried the young man, making a step 
nearer to the hotel. 

"No, no, she's not ill, so far as I know," said Lidder- 
dale, smiling a little. "She was asleep when I left 
the hotel last night. Stay out here, there's a good 
fellow. Trust me to report to you as soon as I know 
anything myself." 

He went into the hotel, and made his way up-stairs 
at once to Mrs. Bromley's sitting-room. His knock at 
the door was answered by Euphemia, who came tow- 
ards him as he entered, looking pale, indeed, but fresh- 
ly sweet, it seemed to him, in her fresh white morning 
dress. She gave him her hand in silence, but with a 
sort of anxious appeal in her eyes that moved him 
greatly. He could do so little for her. Her mother 
was out, she said in a moment. She must have gone 
out quite early, before she, Euphemia, was awake ; she 
had done that once or twice before since they had 
been at Baden. But she was expecting her in now to 
breakfast every minute. 

The breakfast, in fact, was laid on the centre-table, 
Mrs. Bromley having the habit of taking that meal 
with her daughter up-stairs in their own room. Eu- 
phemia stood silent again for a moment; then the 
color rushed to her cheeks. 

"Is it — is it really true," she said* glancing at Lid- 



188 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

derdale, and then averting her eyes, " that my father 
is alive and has come back!" 

" Yes, yes, it is true," Lidderdale answered, taking 
her hand — " it is true, my dear." He held her hand 
more firmly as he felt it tremble in his. 

" It seems so strange, like a dream this^ morning," 
Enphemia went on. " Why has he kept away all these 
years, and only come back now ? And I myself am 
the strangest of all, I think. It — it is so unfeeling 
of me. I ought to feel so much — about him, I mean 
— and I can think of no one but mamma and the 
squire." 

The tears came to her eyes. She gently withdrew 
her hand from Lidderdale's, and drew out her handker- 
chief to press them away. He took a turn up and 
down the room. 

"It is not unfeeling — it is quite natural," he said, 
standing still in front of her. " They are the two who 
have had your affection all your life ; of course you 
think most of them ; don't trouble yourself about that. 
As regards your father, I don't know all his history, 
but no doubt he is much to be pitied ; every one is, in 
a trouble like this. You will have to see him again 
later on ; be good to him as you are to every one — as 
only you know how to be. Don't trouble about the 
rest. Your mother — " 

" Ah, poor mamma !" said Euphemia, with quivering 
lips. All at once she threw up her hands to cover her 
face and hide a burning blush that dyed it deep red, 
and sinking into an arm-chair just behind her, sat 
trembling from head to foot. Lidderdale looked at 
her helplessly. This was what he had wanted to spare 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 189 

her, he said to himself; but at least she had no sas- 
picion of the worst — nor ever should have, if he could- 
prevent it. 

Presently Euphemia looked up. 

"I will try to be good, as you say," she said, with 
what seemed to Lidderdale divine sweetness. " I can't 
think — it seems to me all so strange and terrible — but 
mamma is good ; it must come right for her some way 
in the end. There is a note here for you, Mr. Lidder- 
dale. Mamma must have written it before she went 
out, meaning to send it on her return. But as you are 
here, I can give it to you at once." 

She took Helen's letter from a side-table where it 
had been laid, and gave it to Lidderdale. He opened 
it hastily, and read its contents in a consternation that 
with the consciousness that Euphemia's eyes were fixed 
on him, he vainly endeavored to conceal. He thrust 
the letter when he had finished it into his pocket. 

" Excuse me — excuse me," he said to Euphemia, " I 
want to make an inquiry ; I will be back immediately." 
He left the room with the words. As a fact he wanted 
to gain a moment for reflection, to consider what and 
how much he could tell her. He went down-stairs, 
however, and asked whether Mrs. Bromley had left 
any message for him when she went out. No, there 
was no message ; but the question, as he expected, elic- 
ited a certain amount of information. Mrs. Bromley 
had gone out quite early, he was told, as soon as the 
hotel was opened ; she had spoken to no one ; probably 
as it was her usual breakfast-hour she would be back 
immediately. Lidderdale said that in that case he 
would wait, and went up-stairs again. He asked no 



190 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

more questions; if any further inquiry were to be 
made, it must be conducted as quietly as possible. 

He went back to Eupheraia, still undecided as to 
what he should say to her. She was standing just as 
he had left her, motionless, her arms hanging down at 
her side; but she turned her eyes on him as he entered 
with a look in them that showed she dreaded some 
catastrophe. It was best to end her suspense at once, 
so far as it could be ended. 

"Your mother — " he began, and stopped. "It is a 
little as I had feared," he said, vwith extraordinary ten- 
derness in his accent. "Your mother has had a great 
shock; she is very unhappy — you can imagine that — 
and she has thought it best to go away for a while. 
This letter that she left was to tell me so." 

He paused again. Euphemia stood gazing at him 
as though petrified. " Where is she gone ?" she fal- 
tered at last. 

"Ah, that she doesn't say; I wish she did." He 
pulled out the letter, glanced through it as though to 
give himself a countenance, and thrust it back into his 
pocket. Euphemia held out her hand. 

" May I not see it ? Is there no message for me ?" 
she said. 

"No — no, I think not; no, there is no message; it 
is chiefly an answer to a note I wrote her." He glanced 
again at Euphemia's white face, her dilated, tearless 
eyes, and going to the other end of the room, rang the 
bell, and waited for the hotel servant to answer it. 
" Bring some coffee," he said, when the man appeared, 
and went back to Euphemia. 

"You must give me some breakfast," he said, with 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 191 

less constraint of manner than before, "and have some 
yourself; we shall talk better afterwards. At least, 
no ; I will explain at once," he went on, moved by the 
mute appeal of her face, " I mean, I will tell yon my 
own impression in the matter. But sit down — sit 
down." He moved the arm-chair closer to her, and sat 
down himself in one opposite. "I will be straightfor- 
ward with you," he said. " You trust me ?" 

She replied by a silent motion of the lips. 

" Your mother," he went on, " has felt all this very 
acutely. For that there is no help ; look at the matter 
as one will, it is a terrible complication. She has 
simplified it for the moment by going away. In that 
she has, I think, acted, on the whole, wisely. Arrange- 
ments of some kind must be made which could onlv 
be painful to her, and which her presence here would 
not assist. It is best that she should be away." 

" Oh, why did she not take me ?" broke in Euphemia. 

" No — no ; there again I am disposed to think she 
acted wisely." He paused as the waiter came in with 
the coffee, and going up to the table he poured out a 
cup, and brought it to Euphemia. " On the whole," 
he resumed, going back to his seat, "I am disposed to 
think that she acted wisely in that respect also. What 
I do regret is that she should have left us so abruptly, 
without giving us the opportunity of consulting with 
her in the matter at all. Yes, that I do regret." 

Euphemia hid her face in her hands. 

" Ah, yon must have courage — you must have cour- 
age," said Lidderdale. " You must have courage," he 
repeated, mechanically, getting up and going to the 
window, then sitting down again. He sat staring at 



193 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

the carpet for a moment, trying to find the right words. 
" I promised to be straightforward with you," he said. 
" What I fear is this : Your mother in her letter sug- 
gests writing to me when she has settled herself any- 
where, but, in the mean time, the shock has been very 
great ; she is not strong." 

Eupliemia let her hands fall. 

"You are afraid she will be ill !" she cried. 

"I don't say so, but I should be happier if we could 
find her, if we could come up with her at once." 

Euphemia sat looking at him as if stunned. "Oh, 
we must find her, we must find her, of course," she 
said ; " I hadn't thought of its being difficult, I sup- 
posed that of course she would write, she would let 
me know where she is gone. It was only so dreadful 
that she should go without telling me first. Don't you 
think she will write to me directly ?" 

Lidderdale did not at once answer. Helen's letter 
had communicated to him a horrible fear, but of that 
he could, of course, say nothing to the young girl. 
He was only anxious to impress upon her, without 
causing her too much alarm, the necessity for follow- 
ing her mother without delay. Euphemia would be 
her mother's best safeguard now. " I don't know," he 
said at last, slowly, in reply. "Possibly — well, prob- 
ably. But I don't think we should wait for that. I 
should feel more easy, and you would also, if we could 
ascertain in which direction she is gone. It might, by 
making inquiry, be possible to do so." 

He got up as he spoke, and Euphemia also rose. 

" I will leave you now," he said, " but I will return 
as soon as possible, and let you know if I have learned 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. IW 

anything. In the mean time you mnst have courage— 
you must have courage." 

" TeSj I have courage," said the young girl, looking 
up at him. 

"You have whatever is right, I know," said Lidder- 
dale. He went half-way to the door, then turned. 
" I forgot," he said, " I meant to say to you, don't 
trouble about the squire ; I will speak to him myself 
presently. Don't go to him. You usually take him 
his chocolate, don't you ? Well, send some excuse this 
morning ; it would simply give you useless pain." 

"No, I don't think I can go to him just now," said 

Euphemia. As Lidderdale left the room, she dropped 

into the chair again with her face sunk in her hands, 

and sat so for a long time without moving. 
13 



CHAPTER XVI. 

LiDDEBDALE, OD leaving Enphemia, inquired for Mrs. 
Bromley's maid. She was a limited, faithful creature, 
who had been in her mistress's service ever since her 
marriage to Mr. Bromley, and was devoted to Euphe- 
mia. Lidderdale felt that he could trust her — but, in 
truth, there was little question of trusting now. It 
was not, as he had intimated to Hugh Severne, a story 
to be hidden under a bushel ; the whole world, it was 
too probable, might soon learn the outline at least of 
the miserable history that was affecting so closely some 
of the lives dearest to him in life. In any case, Mrs. 
Bromley's disappearance would have to be accounted 
for in some way ; and it had become apparent to Lid- 
derdale — his acquaintance with the whole matter was 
so intimate that he had felt at first some little difficulty 
in disentangling his own impression from that likely 
to be produced on others — that given the mere surface 
of the story, little or no blame could attach itself to 
Helen. He summoned Millar then, and in the brief- 
est terms possible made her acquainted with what had 
happened. The woman listened in an excitement that 
in itself was no small compensation to her for any more 
painful emotion. 

" To be sure," she said, " I did wonder, to be sure, 
when I went into my mistress's room at the usual hour 
this morning. She was out; there was nothing so 
strange in that, sir ; people get up at such outlandish 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 195 

times in these places, and she might have had a fancy 
to go and drink the waters ; but I conld see she had 
slept on the sofa instead of in her bed, and all I^r 
jewels were lying on the dressing-table jnst as she 
mnst have taken them off last night, which is any- 
thing but safe in a hotel. The first thing I did was 
to lock them all np. My poor mistress ! no one ever 
suited diamonds better than she did. Dear, dear, dear ! 
to think of what will come of it all." She put her 
handkerchief lo her eyes as she spoke. 

"Tour mistress took nothing with her?" said Lid- 
derdale. 

" Not of her jewels, sir, except one diamond ring ; 
for seeing them lying about so, I counted them all 
over to make sure that everything was right. I doubt 
if she's taken a thing but her travelling-bag. I looked 
for that to put away some of the bottles that were lying 
on the dressing-table, and couldn't find it. I supposed 
my mistress had moved it." 

" Well, all that is no matter," said Lidderdale. His 
most immediate anxiety, indeed, still touched Euphe- 
mia, in his fear that her father might force an inter- 
view upon her, and he proceeded to explain his wishes 
to the woman, as he had already done to Hugh Severne. 
"Don't let in any one," he said, urgently. "Miss 
Euphemia is not in a fit state for more excitement at 
present; keep her quiet until I can see her again." 

" Oh, I'll be careful, sir ; Miss Euphemia sha'n't see 
or speak to a soul beside yourself. I'll take care of 
that. Poor dear, I had best go and comfort her up a 
bit ; I dare say she needs it." 

" Ah, do so," said Lidderdale, " and see that she has 



19C U^ EXQUISITE FOOL. 

Bome breakfast. She has had nothing to eat yet to- 
day." 

He left the woman, sure that Euphemia's interests 
were safe for the moment in her hands, and made his 
way out of the hotel. In the road outside he found 
Hugh Severne still pacing up and down. Lidderdale 
passed his arm through that of the young fellow. 

" Come with me to the railway station," he said, "you 
needn't do sentry here any longer. I h^ve spoken to 
Mrs. Bromley's maid, who is a dragon of discretion, 
and she will see that Euphemia is not disturbed. I 
must look this man up at his own quarters presently, 
but, meanwhile, I want to make one or two inquiries. 
There is a train I know that starts for Basle about 
the time I imagine Mrs. Bromley to have left the 
hotel, and it is possible she may have taken it." 

"Mrs. Bromley has gone away ?" 

" I forgot, you hadn't heard," said Lidderdale. He 
gave a sigh of mingled irritation and weariness, and 
taking o£E his hat, pushed the hair back from his fore- 
head. " Yes, she has gone away, and we have no idea 
in what direction. I must find out if I can. I shall 
inquire first of all at the station. I don't want to give 
occasion for talk at the hotel, if I can help it ; you can 
understand that." 

He turned, as he spoke, in the direction of the rail- 
way station ; the distance was not great, and the two 
men traversed it in silence. Lidderdale went in to 
make his inquiries, and in a few minutes rejoined 
young Severne, who had remained in the road outside. 

" No, she has not left by train — that is clear to me," 
be said, as they began to retrace their steps to the 



▲K BXQUIBITB f OOL. 197 

Hotel de I'Enrope. "Mrs. Bromley is not a woman 
to go through the world without remark ; and if she 
had gone by the early train some one, the porters or 
the station-master or some one, would certainly have 
noticed her. There are not so many passengers at 
that hour. Wait here for me, will you?" he presently 
went on, as they came in sight of the hotel. " I must 
see if I can get any information in here. I wanted 
to avoid that, but it can't be avoided, apparently. I'll 
join you again immediately." 

In about ten minutes Lidderdale returned, and with- 
out speaking, flung himself onto a bench in front of 
the hotel. He looked heated and greatly worried, as 
his companion noticed. 

" Have you heard anything ?" he inquired in a mo- 
ment. 

"Well, I have learned that Mrs. Bromley left Baden 
in a carriage. One of the hotel porters saw her get 
into one early this morning; but he is a fool, probably, 
for he could tell me nothing but that she went for a 
drive in the Lichtenthaler Allee. I've made some ex- 
cuse, and sent him off to hunt through Baden to see 
if the coachman has returned ; but if they started to 
drive any distance, of course he won't have done so 
yet." 

"I don't understand now," said young Severne. 
"Mrs. Bromley has gone away — naturally, her hus- 
band's return must have been a great shock to her ; it 
sets her in a wretched position, and her first idea may 
have been to escape. I think her idea all wrong, you 
know ; no one can blame her in the matter ; she is 
simply immensely to be pitied for having a husband 



106 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

who has chosen to efface himself for sixteen years and 
then spring suddenly upon her ; and she might have 
considered her daughter. Still, I dimly understand 
that in the first horror of the situation, her immediate 
impulse may have been to get off. But surely you 
don't imagine her to have altogether disappeared ? 
It's against all reason." 

^^ Oh, reason — reason, what has that to say in a case 
like this? You talk excellent sense, my dear boy," 
Lidderdale went on, "but you don't understand the 
first word of the difficulty. To begin with, you don't 
know Mrs. Bromley." 

" Ah, well, she's not easy to know," said the young 
man. 

" No, she is not easy to know," Lidderdale assented. 
He gazed gloomily before him for a minute, then roused 
himself, and rose with a visible reluctance. 

"I must go," he said; "I see the man I want — 
Richard Craven— coming in this direction ; I must go 
and speak to him. He is on his way to the lK)tel I 
presume, and, though he won't see his daughter, he 
might make an unpleasant disturbance. I'll see you 
again later, Hugh, and if I hear any news, I'll let you 
know." 

The young man rose also. "Look here," he said, 
"is there nothing that I can do? Tell me if there is 
— I'd do anything, go anywhere, you know." 

Lidderdale shook his head, smiling a little. "My 
poor boy, no," he said, " there's nothing for you to do 
at present. But don't be uneasy ; your turn will come 
by-and-by — when mine is ended." 

Much later in the day, when the afternoon was 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 199 

lengthening towards the evening, Lidderdale asked 
again to see Euphemia. He had scribbled her a note 
in pencil on receiving the hotel-porter's information 
about the carriage, but he had thought it best to leave 
her othervirise undisturbed for a time to Millar's faith- 
ful ministrations. She was not in the sitting-room 
when he went into it, and he stood waiting for a few 
minutes, looking vaguely at the unused aspect of the 
room — Helen's books piled together on a side-table, as 
they had been left by the hotel-servant, the drooping 
flowers, the embroidery frame standing covered up in 
the window. When the young girl came in, it struck 
him, and the impression gave him pain, that she was 
changed since the morning. She was extremely pale, 
and he saw that she had been crying; but it was not 
that. It was that something childish in her expression, 
which, like the delicate rounding of her cheek, she had 
kept since childhood up till now, had passed away, and, 
as he felt sure, forever. He forgot it in a moment, 
however, as her eyes met his with a look of intense 
and anxious inquiry. He had told her to have cour- 
age, and he perceived that she had braced herself to 
meet, without flinching, whatever he might have to tell 
her. 

"No, I have heard nothing yet," he hastened to 
assure her. " But we may get news at any moment 
now, if the driver returns ; the porter knows the man 
and his number. That, however, is not what I came 
to say. 1 wanted you to know that I have seen the 
squire, and told him, my dear, what has happened. He 
could not longer be kept in ignorance, and I only post- 
poned it, in fact, in the hope of hearing something 



860 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

definite about your mother. It had come to his knowl- 
edge, as such things will, that there was something 
wrong, and he was beginning to be exceedingly anx- 
ious and perplexed at hearing nothing further." 

" It was a heavy blow of course," Lidderdale went 
on, in a moment ; " it could not be otherwise. I had 
some diflBculty in making him understand, for a time. 
But he is better now, and wants you to go to him, 
Euphemia. He clings to you very much, poor old 
man." 

" Oh, I ought not to have left him all day — I will 
go at once," said Euphemia, turning away quickly. 

"Presently, there is no hurry," said Lidderdale, de- 
taining her. " It will do him no harm to be left quiet 
for a little while, and I also want to speak to you 
about — about your father." Euphemia shuddered a 
little, and stood with her eyes fixed on him without 
speaking. 

"I had a long conversation with him this morning," 
Lidderdale continued. " I believe he regrets now the 
abruptness with which he made himself known to you; 
he understands that the shock, the surprise — in short, 
he has left Baden for a day or two. When he comes 
back I have promised that you will see him." 

" Yes, oh yes," said Euphemia. 

" I should like you — I should like you," said Lid- 
derdale, hesitating a little, " to be very kind to him. 
Forgive my suggesting it," he added, quickly, as Eu- 
phemia made a movement. "He is your father, of 
course, but he feels that he has set himself a little in 
the wrong in your eyes, and that if you should take up 
an attitude of reproach, he might find it hard to jus- 



AN EXQUIIITX TOOL. 101 

tify himself altogether. It has not been wholly his 
fault that he has stayed away all these years ; life is 
very complicated ; one thing entails another, and men 
find themselves caught in a web of circumstances^ be- 
fore they know where they are, and when it becomes 
very diflBcult to know what is right. You don't see 
that yet, of course ; you don't see why there should be 
more than one right, nor why people shouldn't do it ; 
yes, yes, I understand all that. But as one goes on in 
life, one learns to be a little merciful, and perhaps one 
can't begin too early." 

Euphemia did not at once answer. She glanced at- 
Lidderdale, then glanced away again ; he wondered 
what thoughts were working in her mind. 

" I wish to be good to my father," was all she said 
at last, very gently. 

"Well, you won't find it difficult, for he has a strong 
affection for you ; and I think it improbable that you 
will see much of him at present. He talks of going 
back to Australia for a time, even should he finally 
settle in England. He understands what a strong 
claim tlue squire has upon you ; he will not desire to 
separate you at present." 

Lidderdale, in thus epitomizing his conversation 
with Euphemia's father, naturally laid no stress on the 
arguments he himself had used in discussing the mat- 
ter. " Tou have revenged yourself on your wife," he 
began, with a bitterness he could not repress ; "yes, if 
it is any satisfaction to you to know it, T believe your 
revenge to be complete. She has gone away ; it is use- 
less to ask me where she has gone to ; I know no more 
than you do. But her daughter remains; don't, for 



202 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

God's sake, have the cruelty to tell her more of this 
miserable history than she knows already. Her love 
for her mother and her belief in her are the most sa- 
cred things in her life ; if you desecrate them, you 
commit a crime. More than that, you will alienate 
Euphemia hopelessly. As it is, you have stunned and 
scared her ; she thinks herself wicked, poor child, be- 
cause she cannot feel what she supposes a daughter 
ought to feel towards a father given back from the 
dead. She has probably, like all children in respect 
of a parent they have hardly known, pictured you 
to herself as an invisible guardian in heaven, and so 
on ; that is what a girl of Euphemia's temperament 
would do. You may judge of the effect made on her 
by your sudden appearance. You are simply a stran- 
ger to her ; but a stranger whose conduct has placed 
her mother in an odious and intolerable position, and 
towards whom duty demands a sentiment she is total- 
ly incapable of feeling." 

Craven thrust his hands into his pockets. 

" You set the matter in a pleasing light," he said, 
with his sombre look, " but your argument only goes 
to prove that it would be to my own interest that my 
daughter should know the truth. It was not I who 
made the situation." 

" 1 see that point of view, of course," said Lidder- 
dale, more tolerantly, "but it would not work as you 
imagine. You may take my word for that; your daugh- 
ter is too much bound up in her mother. Take my 
advice, leave her in peace for a time, at any rate. 
There is not only her mother, there is Mr. Bromley to 
be considered. He has a great affection for Euphemia, 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 208 

as she has for him ; she has been like his own child ; 
he has, in fact, the strongest claims on her gratitude 
and affection. Excuse mj saying all this; it isn't pleas- 
ant for you to hear, of course ; but there is no use in 
blinking the facts. The mere incident of your return 
can't undo the work and the traditions of a young 
girl's whole life. And there is young Severne — " 

" Ah," said Craven, " my wife told me that Euphe- 
mia is engaged to him." 

" She is not — she is not," said Lidderdale, " but there 
is no reasonable doubt that she soon will be. All 
this," he went on, " is a great trouble to Euphemia ; 
she is torn to pieces, poor child, by this emotion and 
that ; and her mother having left her, as she has done, 
without a word, has made the situation tragic. But 
she is young, she has her own life to make, and she 
will live through it all, not too unhappily, perhaps, 
at last, if no blame of wrong-doing should attach it- 
self, in her eyes, to the being she loves best in the 
world. But what effect the knowledge of what her 
mother's life has been these last fifteen years would 
have upon a delicate religious mind like hers I can 
hardly conjecture. If she were a Eoman Catholic, it 
would probably drive her into a convent to pray out 
the remainder of her days by way of expiation. As it 
is, it could hardly fail to darken the color of life to her 
permanently. If it had been possible, I would have 
spared her this trouble altogether. Well, it hasn't 
been possible ; and, after all, like all human beings, 
she must know trouble one time or another. But this 
other and far more terrible trouble she ought to be 
spared." 



SM AN EXQUISITE TOOL. 

His companion was silent for a while. When he 
spoke again it was with considerably more irritation 
than he had shown yet. 

"I suppose," he said, "I've given yon some right to 
interfere in my affairs by relating them to you in the 
first instance, but I fail to understand how all this 
concerns you. My wife spoiled my life fifteen years 
ago by driving me out of the country ; don't imagine 
I have any intention of letting it be spoiled again; and 
though you've been good enough to present me with 
a great deal of information and advice, I don't see 
why the devil I should attend to one or the other." 

" Nor I," replied Lidderdale, shortly, " except that I 
happen to know what I'm talking about." He also 
was silent for a while, silenced by his extreme dislike 
to the business on hand ; and then the matter he had 
so greatly at heart, his fear that, in his desire to justify 
himself. Craven might blacken her mother's name to 
Euphemia, drove him to speak again. He disliked the 
business ; but, however he might resent his mode of 
action — and he resented it bitterly — he somehow 
stopped short of disliking the man. Lidderdale had 
given a good many thoughts to Euphemia's father in 
these last two days, and he believed he had read him 
aright, as a man of warm and variable passions, obsti- 
nate, as yielding natures are apt to be, after a certain 
point was passed, but impressionable up to that point, 
and not impossible to persuade. 

"I speak for Euphemia only," he said, after a pause. 
" What your future relations with Mrs. Bromley may 
be I don't know ; and of course, as you say, it's no 
concern of mine. But if you take my advice — and, 



▲N EXQUISITE FOOL. S05 

of course, there is no reason you should — you will 
leave your daughter in peace for a time. In time she 
will accustom herself to the knowledge that she has a 
father ; and I give you my word, if that is any good, 
to use such influence as I possess with her — and I 
don't believe it is a little — ^to prejudice her in your 
favor. She has a very simple nature, as well as an ex- 
traordinarily tender one, and generally believes what I 
tell her. You may trust me to do my best." 

" I don't know that it's any use my saying so," Lid- 
derdale went on, with a good deal more feeling in hisr 
voice, "it can make, of course, no difference to you; 
but 1 am sincerely sorry for you. I think your case a 
very hard one. And it's always easy to recommend 
to another man a generous line of conduct ; but as it 
happens here, I feel sure you will find it pay. Alien- 
ate your daughter now, and whatever conduct her duty 
towards you may instruct her to pursue — and her sense 
of duty you will always be able to command — you'll 
never win her affections. But she has a nature of 
extraordinary tenderness, as I have said ; and if you 
don't complicate matters further, but trust to the work- 
ing of time and your own affection, you're sure to get 
the benefit of that ; you may at least take my word 
that you'll gain nothing by the opposite course. You 
needn't listen to me, no ! these are your own affairs, as 
you say. But if I speak chiefly for Euphemia, I speak 
also for you, and I am not talking at random. For her 
^ake, at any rate, you must excuse my interference." 



CHAPTER XVII. 

It was the final result of this conversation, which 
prolonged itself for some time, that Lidderdale com- 
municated to Euphemia. He had, he believed, gained 
his point ; he felt tolerably sure that Richard Craven 
would say nothing to shake his daughter's faith in her 
mother; that whatever might happen, that crowning 
sadness at least would be spared the young girl. For 
the moment he had no fears for her ; he felt so certain 
that she had spent the hours since the morning in re- 
alizing the situation, in telling herself that she would 
meet it with calmness. She said little, however, in an- 
swer to his words ; a singular reticence, a reticence he 
could only respect, and springing, he conjectured, from 
some deeper and more complex emotion than she had 
ever known before, seemed to hold her in silence when- 
ever her father's name was mentioned. Presently she 
said that she would go to the squire, she was sure that 
he did want her ; and she was moving away when a 
knock came at the salon door. Lidderdale went to 
open it. 

" Stay, don't go yet," he said to Euphemia. "There 
is some one down-stairs who wants to see me. Wait 
till I come back." 

He returned in a few minutes, and began to speak 
at once, to put an end to the silent suspense he saw in 
Euphemia's face. 

"Yes, there is news, and as good as could be looked 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 207 

for,'' he declared, "for it enables me to hope that we 
may rejoin your mother to-night. The driver has re- 
turned sooner than I had thought probable. His horse, 
it would appear, fell dead lame at about a mile from 
the little village of San Sebaldus, which lies high up in 
the mountains, and he had to leave his carriage in the 
forest and lead the poor beast down to a little inn 
where he hoped to procure another horse ; but he was 
disappointed in getting one there, and had to come 
down to Baden. That is his story, at least. Fortu- 
nately he got a lift on a return carriage for the greater 
part of the way down, or he might not have been here 
before midnight. Tour mother," Lidderdale went on, 
without looking at Euphemia, " was to walk on to San 
Sebaldus, where there is a very decent inn, and spend the 
night there, the man's intention being to take his horse 
up from Baden and rejoin her at an early hour to-mor- 
row morning. If we start at once, however, we may 
still be able to. get there to-night. I'm afraid it's a 
long and tedious drive, some six or seven hours, and up- 
hill all the way ; but the road is good, and with a pair 
of horses I believe we may manage it." 

" I will get ready at once," said Euphemia. 

"Tes, I counted on your going, and I have ordered 
a carriage; it will be round immediately. Do you 
think," Lidderdale went on, hesitating a little, " that 
you could still go to the squire for a moment before 
we start? He ought to know that we have had news, 
that we are going away ; but tell him — tell him if you 
will, Euphemia, that you will certainly come back to 
him ; don't let him feel himself deserted, poor old 
man. Don't go, though," he immediately added, "if 



308 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

it will be too much for you; I will speak to hiin again 
myself." 

^^ Oh no, I want to go," said Euphemia. She hesi- 
tated on her side, then colored a good deal. ^^ Nothing 
is too much for me, please believe that," she said, with 
a beautiful look in her eyes. *' Why should it be ? I 
only want to do what is right — if you will tell me what 
you think right." 

Lidderdale made no inquiry as to what passed be- 
tween Euphemia and the poor sick old man who had 
stood to her in the place of a father. To himself, cer- 
tainly, not the least painful hour of that painful day 
was that which he spent in the squire's company. He 
had found him, as he told Euphemia, uneasy, agitated, 
conscious of some misfortune in the air; and Lid- 
derdale, who had debated with himself beforehand 
whether it would be possible to withhold the truth, or 
at least some part of it, judged it wise to tell him the 
whole story, suppressing only the damning fact that 
the story had been known to his wife for the last six- 
teen years. The blow, as he immediately perceived, 
fell upon the old man not crushingly ; in his enfeebled 
state he had hardly vitality enough to be crushed ; but 
after a fashion that would make it felt by degrees. It 
took him some time — but that was perhaps Lidderdale's 
fault, he found it impossible not to stumble and hesi- 
tate — to comprehend the facts ; and when he did, he 
said nothing very much to the point. "It's very 
strange, it's very strange," he repeated over and over 
again, with his lustreless eyes fixed on Lidderdale's 
face ; and presently asked for Euphemia. Lidderdale 
quitted him at the end of their interview without much 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. *)9 

anxiety as to his immediate state. He felt more un- 
easy now, in the prospect of leaving him alone for an 
indefinite time ; and remembering that the squire had 
often expressed a liking for Hugh Severne's company, 
he went off in search of the young man, to beg him to 
look after Mr. Bromley during his own and Euphe- 
mia's absence. How long would that absence last ? He 
had no idea ; he could not see an inch before him in 
the immediate gloom. Only a strong anxiety, a strong 
foreboding urged him to overtake Helen without delay. 
The rest must be left to the inspiration of the hour. 

He found Hugh without diflSculty ; the young fel- 
low had been hanging about in front of the hotel all 
day. His first idea was to accompany Lidderdale and 
Euphemia ; he had twenty reasons to bring forward in 
proof of his assertion that he could be of more use in 
that way than in any other. Lidderdale had only one 
word in reply. 

" Look here, my boy," he said, " you can't come with 
us, of course ; the idea is not admissible for a moment. 
And, of course, you needn't bother yourself about the 
squire ; but if you want to please Miss Craven, you'll 
look after him a little while we're away." 

" Oh, well, if you put it in that way," the young fel- 
low murmured at last. He accompanied Lidderdale to 
the door of the hotel, and stood waiting while the latter 
went inside to summon Euphemia; the little open car- 
riage that Lidderdale had ordered as being lighter and 
swifter than a closed vehicle, was already there. Eu- 
phemia came down in a moment in her gray travelling- 
dress, her gray gauze veil tied closely over her face, 
Millar following with a bag and an armful of wraps. 

14 



210 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

The young girl stepped quickly into the carriage with- 
out seeing Hugh Severne, who fell back on perceiving 
that his help was not needed. Lidderdale arranged 
the rug for Euphemia, then paused before getting in 
beside her. 

"Hugh has promised to look after the squire while 
we are away," he said, with kindness. " Have you any 
directions to give him ?" 

" Oh, that is very good of you," said Euphemia, 
leaning forward quickly. " Yes, if you could get him 
to play backgammon — that will be better for him than 
to sit alone thinking, will it not ?" she said, appealing 
to Lidderdale. 

" Very much better, I should think ; but Hugh will 
see how he is ; I have confidence that he will know 
what is best." 

" Oh, I am sure of that, too," said Enphemia, with 
gentle sweetness, " and I sha'n't so much mind leaving 
him now." She held out her little gray-gloved hand 
to the young man, who took it, and forgot to loosen it 
in the sense that while it was in his grasp this exqui- 
site moment was still his. It ended instantly, however, 
as Lidderdale stepped between, and taking his place 
beside Eiipliemia, gave the signal for departure. The 
sun was sinking to the west beneath a bank of clouds, 
a band was playing in the Kursaal gardens, the gay 
little town was all glittering and in movement in the 
level sunbeams and long shadows. But the carriage 
rolled away towards the mountains, and Euphemia did 
not even turn her head. 

It was past midnight when the travellers entered the 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 211 

little village to which they had been directed. A 
clonded moon, whose BufEused light had aided the lat- 
ter part of their long ascent, showed with sufficient 
distinctness a cluster of gabled houses standing among 
gardens and fruit-trees, in a green upper valley set like 
an idyllic poem in the heart of the forest. It was one 
of those spots that dwell in the fancy of the tired 
wayfarer, as an image of homely an^ intimate peace 
in a scrambling and clamorous world ; but to Lidder- 
dale's surprise, instead of the profound repose he had 
expected to find, of a German village wrapped in mid- 
night slumber, there were still signs of life and move- 
ment. Light shone from more than one window un- 
der the deep-eaved roofs; and from the Golden 
Lamb, the little inn that had been named to them as 
affording good accommodation for travellers, there 
came sounds of mirth and jollity^ snatches of song, the 
scraping of a violin. The driver, leaning back from 
his seat — it was not the man who had driven Helen, 
but a coachman employed by the hotel — explained this 
unwonted vigil. There was a gr^at shooting-match go- 
ing on that lasted three days, and all the country round 
during that period was given up to festivity. This 
was the first day, and the village was, probably, full of 
people who had come from a distance to take part in 
the shooting. 

" Ah, that is unlucky," murmured Lidderdale. The 
carriage had stopped before the door of the inn, and 
Euphemia, who had sat silent, almost motionless, dur- 
ing the long hours of their drive, stirred and leaned 
forward, throwing back the carriage-rug preparatory 
to rising. 



S13 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

" No, don't get out," said Lidderdale, detaining her ; 
^^ I am going in to make some inquiries. Wait a mo- 
ment until I return." 

He disappeared within the lighted interior of the 
inn. In a few minutes he came back. 

"It is unfortunate — " he began. "At least, no, it 
is all right so far," he went on immediately, respond- 
ing to the quick alarm in Euphemia's face. "Your 
mother has been here ; we have been rightly directed. 
But owing to this unlucky shooting- match, she was 
unable to get accommodation for the night, and had to 
go farther on, so we have still a drive of half an hour 
or so before us, I am afraid." 

He gave some directions to the coachman, and took 
his place again at Euphemia's side, while the carriage, 
turning, began to leave the village in a direction oppo- 
site to that by which they had entered it. The church 
clock struck the half-hour after midnight, one or two 
cocks crowed, the sound of voices and music died away 
as they passed again into the comparative darkness of 
the forest. Euphemia shivered a little, and Lidderdale 
arranged her wraps more closely round her. 

"You are cold," he said, with concern. "No? 
That is well, but I ought to have got you a cup of cof- 
fee at the inn ; I never thought of it. What has hap- 
pened is this," he went on, with such cheerfulness of 
tone as he could command. "Your mother arrived 
here this afternoon, but was told that under the cir- 
cumstances it would be impossible that she should 
have a room ; every corner is full. The driver, how- 
ever, had assured her that he had little doubt of find- 
ing a fresh horse between this and Baden, and that he 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. nZ 

would bring up the carriage in an hour or two. The 
man sinaply lied, probably, to make out a better case 
for himself, for the landlady at the Golden Lamb tells 
me there is no possibility of getting a horse at the 
place he named ; but the result was that your mother 
waited on until nearly dusk in expectation of his re- 
turn, and then had to take the landlady's advice about 
finding other quarters. It was hopeless to look for 
anything in the village, and at the woman's recommen- 
dation she decided to go a little farther and find ac- 
commodation for the night with some Sisters of Mercy 
who have their convent out here in the forest, in order 
to devote themselves to good works in the country 
round. They have always, the landlady assured me, 
one or two beds for strangers — tiie shooting-match, of 
course, would not affect them — and spare no trouble to 
make their visitors comfortable. The carriage was to 
be sent on when it arrived to-morrow morning. There 
was, unfortunately, no vehicle to be had in the village; 
everything had been swallowed up by this luckless fes- 
tival ; but a boy was found to carry your mother's bag, 
and to judge by the state of the road, she would ar- 
rive on foot almost as quickly as we shall in driving. 
It is not much more than a mile, as I understand — a 
German mile, of course ; but, at any rate, no great dis- 
tance." 

" Ahj poor mamma," sighed Euphemia, " how tired 
she must have been !" 

The same thought was in Lidderdale's mind, though 
he had hoped it might not occur to Euphemia. He 
had offered the explanation with as much cheerfulness 
as he could muster, but to himself there was something 



814 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

miserably abject and pitif al in the whole story. He 
hated to think of Helen toiling along the dusky, cart- 
rutted road. It was much rougher than that by which 
they had driven up from Baden, often little more, in- 
deed, than a wide cart-track leading among the trees — 
he had so clear a vision of how she must have hated it 
herself, and all the petty contretempa of her desperate 
and hopeless journey. The carriage dragged arduous- 
ly along, carrying with it a small space of illumination 
in its lamps, which lighted up the twigs and stems of 
the trees, the dark suggestions of the forest, the layers 
of dead shining pine-needles, strangely enough. The 
drive seemed interminable in this lagging progress, 
and it had, in fact, lasted considerably more than an 
hour when they saw before them in the dim moonlight 
a plain, whitewashed, gray -roofed building, standing 
where the trees fell apart, and the ground dipped 
through an immense opening towards the distant plain. 
A few cottages belonging to wood-cutters or to pen- 
sioners of the convent stood about, hushed in profound 
silence; the wheels of the carriage seemed to make a 
startling noise as the vehicle grated and bumped over 
the rough impediments of the road ; but from one or 
two of the frequent windows of the larger building 
there was still visible the gleam of a light. Lidderdale, 
who had hardly spoken during the last hour, turned to 
Euphemia now. 

^^It is as I hoped," he said. ^^ These good Sisters 
are never all in bed at once, I imagine ; some one is 
always keeping vigil, and if, as I trust, your mother is 
here, there will be no diflSculty in having you admit- 
ted and put up for the night." 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 215 

"But what will you do?" said Euphemia, anxiously. 

" I ? Oh, I shall do well enough ; you needn't trou- 
ble about me. And now — ^you have been patient so 
long, have a little patience still — I shall ask yon to 
stay here while I go into the house and make inquiries. 
You are sure you're not cold ?" 

" Oh no," said Euphemia. The carriage had stopped 
before the outer gate of the convent. Euphemia, who 
had half risen to spring to the ground, sat down again 
at Lidderdale's words ; but she shivered again a little 
as she did so. The night was so silent, the moonlight 
so melancholy, as to give impressiveness even to the 
unimpressive walls of the building before them. Lid- 
derdale, who had sprung out of the carriage, rearranged 
the rug for her. 

"1 won't keep you a moment longer than I can 
help," he said, " but I want to be assured that we are 
all right before disturbing you. It is not impossible 
your mother may have found a conveyance here and 
driven farther on, as she seems to have intended doing 
in the first instance." 

He could hardly imagine, indeed, Helen spending 
an hour, if she could avoid it, within these walls dedi- 
cated to hardship and self- privation. A low outer 
wall ran round the large court-yard in which the main 
building stood, a big porte-cocMre giving access to the 
interior. The door was closed, but Lidderdale pulled 
sharply at an iron handle that hung beside it. A bell, 
succeeded by the barking of a dog, then that of an- 
other and another from the cottages round, sounded 
clamorously through the night, and the next minute 
the door swung slowly backward from within and ad- 



216 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

mitted Lidderdale to the court-yard. They were, as 
he had been told, Sisters of beneficence and mercy who 
lived here, and accustomed apparently to obey sum- 
mons by night no less than by day. 

There was no porter's lodge at the outer gate, but as 
Lidderdale approached the convent he saw that the 
wooden shutter of a grating had been opened in a door 
on one side of the deep porch or entrance ; a light ap- 
peared, and then the white -capped head of a Sister, 
who in gentle, placid accents inquired his business. 
Lidderdale stated it as briefly as possible. An English 
lady, unable to find accommodation at the inn at San 
Sebaldus, had been directed (so he was informed) here, 
where kindness and hospitality were extended to stran- 
gers ; had she arrived, and was she spending the night 
in the convent? 

The portress, who was young and rosy, eyed him, he 
thought, somewhat askance. " You are a countryman 
of hers ?" she inquired in a moment. 

" Yes, I am English." 

" A relation, perhaps?" 

"No, no relation whatever; a friend only. Excuse 
me," said Lidderdale, who was becoming impatient of 
this interrogatory, " but I am rather in haste. Mrs. 
Bromley's daughter is with me ; I have left her wait- 
ing in the carriage till I could tell her definitely that 
her mother is here. We have driven up from Baden 
on purpose to rejoin her." 

" Ah, her daughter is here !" said the Sister, eying 
him again. "It is very late," she said, after a pause. 
"Visits at this hour are unusual, as you can perhaps 
imagine ; almost every one is in bed. It will perhaps be 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 217 

best that you should speak to the Superior. If you will 
wait here a minute the parlor shall be opened to you." 

She closed the shutter of the grating as she spoke, 
leaving Lidderdale in darkness. In a minute, however, 
she reappeared with a light, her keys jangling at her 
side, and opening a door opposite to that by which 
Lidderdale was standing, ushered him into a large bare 
convent parlor, furnished with some wooden presses, a 
square table, and a dozen straw-bottomed chairs. Two 
framed engravings, one of the "Crucifixion," one of the 
" Assumption of the Virgin," alone decorated the white- 
washed walls ; and Lidderdale, recalling the point of 
irony Helen had constantly brought to her contempla- 
tion of life, felt it justified by the irony of fate that 
had led him to seek her in a place like this. 

He had time to indulge in this reflection, for the 
portress retiring after setting the light down on the ta- 
ble, he was left alone for a space sufficient to stir him 
to extreme impatience on Euphemia's account. He 
felt a vague anxiety, but no especial alarm ; it appeared 
to him certain that Helen was here or he would at once 
have been dismissed, and he had not expected the es- 
tablishment to be on foot to receive unlooked-for trav- 
ellers at two o'clock in the morning. Probably the 
Superior, whose presence was apparently essential to 
such an unwonted event, had been in bed and asleep. 
But Euphemia, seated there in the little open carriage 
in the silence of the melancholy night, might be a prey 
to a hundred alarming conjectures. He was on the 
point of going out to speak a reassuring word to her, 
when the door opened again and the Superior of the 
Sisterhood entered. 



218 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

She was a woman between forty and fifty, and her 
broad, white -winged cap snrmonnted a countenance 
fresh-looking still and placid, but more intelligent than 
that of the little Sister Lidderdale had already seen. 
She paused opposite Lidderdale, one hand, hidden to 
the finger-tips by her sleeve, resting on the table be- 
tween them. He hastened to murmur some excuse for 
having disturbed her at such an untimely hour. 

" That was nothing," she answered, in her tranquil 
voice ; " they were there to be disturbed.*' She paused 
again, and looked at him askance as the other had 
done. "You have come," she said, '^ to inquire about 
an English lady who was directed to us from the inn 
at San Sebaldus ?" 

" She was told, as I understand, that she would be 
accommodated here with a room for the night," re- 
plied Lidderdale. 

" Yes, and that was quite right. We have the habit 
of receiving strangers occasionally. It is not too in- 
convenient; they naturally prefer the comforts of a 
regular inn, and we are not often troubled. In any 
case, we are glad, of course, to welcome any one in 
need of us. This English lady — " 

" She came here, I suppose ?" 

" Yes ; if one may say so, she came." The Superior 
folded her arms, thrust a hand deep into either large 
hanging sleeve, and fixed her eyes on the ground. 
" You are not her relation ? No ; only her friend ? 
Well, friendship also has its sorrows, and we must 
each of us submit to the will of God. Your friend is 
here; she has been here for some hours; but she is 
dead." 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 219 

"Good Godl" said Lidderdale. The shock was a 
hideous one. This was what he had feared ; bat not 
so soon as this — not so soon. He stood staring at the 
Superior without seeing her, or hearing what her next 
words were. She moved forward in a moment and 
drew a chair towards the table. 

" Pray be seated," she said. 

She sat down herself as she spoke, but Lidderdale 
paid no attention to her words. He remained stand- 
ing, grasping the back of the chair nearest to him with 
both hands, gazing helplessly before him. 

"I don't understand," he said at last, desperately. 
"She was perfectly well when she left Baden this 
morning. There was no reason — " 

"Ah, if it had been an illness," said the Superior, 
with a sigh. " It has been a great shock to us also," 
she went on in a moment. " We have seen many sad 
sights in our experience, but none more terrible, more 
moving. Who this poor lady was, what had led her in 
our direction, of all that of course we knew nothing; 
but what took place within our knowledge was this : 
Towards dark last evening a boy came here who said 
that he was conducting a lady through the wood who 
wanted a night's lodging at the conveftt, the inn being 
full on account of the shooting-match ; but that half- 
way on the road she had declared herself too much fa- 
tigued to walk farther, and had sent the boy to get a 
vehicle here, if possible, to bring her on. We have a 
light cart that we use for various purposes, and that 
was very much at her service ; but it was out as usual 
on its rounds, and though we expected it from one 
minute to another, it was an hour or more before it 



230 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

came back. The circuit among onr scattered villages 
is a wide one, and it often happens that it ip late. As 
soon as it returned we sent it off with the boy and one 
of the Sisters, in case the stranger shoald be in need of 
help. When they arrived at the place where the boy 
had left her, they saw her lying on the ground, her 
Head resting against the trunk of a tree. At first they 
thought she was asleep, but in a moment they fonnd 
that she was quite insensible. They brought her here ; 
we did what we could ; it was too late." 

"Do you mean — " began Lidderdale. "She died 
from exhaustion, do you mean?" he said, slightly 
changing his phrase. 

" Ah, if it had been that," said the Superior, sighing 
again, " that would have been sad enough ; but this 
was found beside her, just under her hand, as it might 
have dropped from her fingers." Lidderdale looked 
at the object that the Superior produced and handed 
to him from her ample pocket, and returned it without 
a word. "We have an excellent doctor in the neigh- 
borhood," the Sister went on. "He lives, not at San 
Sebaldus, but a little farther off, at the next village in 
this other direction. We sent the boy for him, and 
in about two hours he was here. He was not long 
gone when you arrived. To-morrow, the first thing, 
we must apprise the authorities: it was too late for 
that to-night. We surmised, we could only surmise, 
that some dreadful misfortune had driven the poor 
lady from home and friends to her terrible fate. I am 
glad you should have come ; it will simplify many 
things. I can take you to her at once, if you wish ; 
she is lying very peacefully now in our little guest- 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. »1 

chamber. We all wept as we looked at her; yes, there 
have been tears shed by strangers already. She must 
have been so beautiful ; she is so still." 

Lidderdale stared at her without speaking. The 
news seemed so unspeakable that no word of comment 
was possible. All at once he pulled himself together. 

"You have done everything that was right and kind, 
T am sure," he said, hoarsely, "and I thank you as her 
friend. But I am not the chief person concerned. 
Mrs. Bromley's daughter is here — " 

" Ah, so Sister Augustine intimated," said the Supe- 
rior, looking vaguely round the dimly illumined parlor. 
" You have left her in the carriage ? So, so, I under- 
stand. But she must be a mere child." 

" She is nineteen, but not much more than a child," 
said Lidderdale ; " I must go to her now ; and if, as 
is possible, she insists on seeing and hearing for herself, 
I will bring her in with me. But I entreat — I implore 
you to conceal from her the cause of her mother's 
death. You are quite right; a great misfortune had 
broken the life of that unhappy lady, and it has been 
my constant effort to keep the worst of it from dark- 
ening the life of her daughter. Something she knows, 
but not the worst, and the worst must be kept from 
her now. I entreat, that neither from you nor from 
any one else here may a hint reach her of how her 
mother met her end." 

" Ah, that is understood," said the Superior, with her 
placid intonation. "Poor child, poor child, to have 
followed her mother here, only to find her dead ; that 
is already terrible enough. Certainly, you may abso- 
lutely count upon the discretion of all of us." 



222 AN EXQUISITJS FOOL. 

Lidderdale left her and hastened out into the coart- 
yard. Euphemia, with a patience that touched him, 
was sitting just as he had left her; but she turned 
her face quickly and eagerly towards him as he ap- 
proached. 

'^Is mamma here?" she said, instantly. 

Lidderdale did not immediately answer. " Yes, she 
is here," he said, in a moment. 

She caught an instant alarm from his manner. ^^ Is 
she ill?" she said, springing from the carriage. In 
the moonlight she could see the changed expression of 
the face he turned towards her. Her own face grew 
white. 

"My dear, my dear," said Lidderdale, taking her 
hand in his, "it is as we feared. The shock has been 
too great — " His voice faltered. 

Euphemia gazed at him a moment with dilated eyes 
and parted lips. " Let me go to her," she said, then, 
turning towards the convent. 

" No — no, wait a minute," said Lidderdale. "It can 
do no good now, my poor child. It is too late." 

" Oh, no matter, I can't believe it, I must go," said 
Euphemia, in a sharp voice of anguish — " I must go to 
her at once ; it can't be too late." 

She walked rapidly across the court-yard, Lidderdale 
keeping at her side. The door stood open, there were 
one or two lights moving about ; the Superior met 
them at the entrance of the parlor. She glanced at 
Lidderdale, who nodded in reply. Euphemia advanced 
a few steps into the room and stood still. 

" Where is mamma?" she said. 

Lidderdale looked at her with an emotion he had 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 328 

diflSculty in mastering. "Euphemia," he said, "do you 
not understand? Your mother — " 

" Oh, I understand," she cried, " but I must go to 
her ; I must, I must !" 

She made her way to the door again. Lidderdale 
looked helplessly at the Superior. 

" It will do her no harm," said the Sister. She went 
up to Euphemia, who had paused in the doorway, un- 
certain which way to turn, and put her arm round the 
young girl's waist. 

" Come with me, my poor child," she said, gently 
drawing her forward. " She lies at peace," she imme- 
diately added, " and we will pray for her always." 

Euphemia made no response; she had no air of being 
conscious of what was about her. The Superior led the 
way along a passage, up a flight of steps to a small, 
scantily -furnished, decent room, with an uncarpeted 
floor, and a square window opening onto the woods at 
the back of the convent. There were two or three 
lights burning in the room, and a Sister at her prayers 
before a small crucifix, who rose as they entered, and 
effaced herself at a sign from the Superior. All this 
Lidderdale saw, but barely recognized, for his attention 
was immediately drawn to the narrow couch, where a 
face, whose beauty seemed to him terrible in death, 
showed itself on a white pillow above the vague out- 
lines of a shrouded form. Euphemia, with a cry, flung 
herself forward on her knees beside the bed ; but Lid- 
derdale, standing motionless, thought of the delicate, 
skilful hands, the restless brain, the incomparable beam 
that had shone from those silent eyes, and felt that life 
could never again hold for him a moment so poignant. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

He often saw Euphemia, of course, in the months 
that followed. It was he who broke the news to tire 
squire, and made the needful arrangements for his and 
for Euphemia's return to England; and after they had 
settled down again at Bromley Court he paid a long 
visit to his sister, so as to be near at hand in case of 
need. But when, some eight or ten months later, Eu- 
phemia became engaged to Hugh Severne, Lidderdale 
went abroad, and never saw her again until this even- 
ing, fourteen years later, when they met by chance in 
a London drawing-room. She wrote to him, often at 
first ; less frequently, as was natural, as the years went 
on. It was from her that he heard of the death of the 
squire, which occurred about a year after that of Mrs. 
Bromley. It was as Lidderdale had foreseen ; instead 
of rallying from a blow that in his enfeebled state 
seemed to strike at first with no great force, he drooped 
and sank under it more and more; and it was Euphe- 
mia, laying aside after the first terrible days of over- 
whelming grief her personal trouble to cheer the old 
man, who literally kept him alive during the latest 
months of his life. 

Of her own father she never wrote to Lidderdale at 
any great length. She did not, after all, see him again 
at Baden ; he returned, indeed, but the news of his 
wife's death, concerning which, in talking with Lidder- 
dale, he divined the real facts (and Lidderdale at- 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 226 

tempted no contradiction), confoanded him. Had he 
in fact, as Helen once hinted, still cared for his wife, 
cared for her with a passion that could find no outlet 
but through a passionate revenge? It was a question 
that Lidderdale debated with himself once or twice, 
but never cared to pursue ; it had become indifferent 
to him. He had tried, in the first instance, to do the 
man justice; but after that black and cruel hour it 
was long before he could think of him with anything 
but a bitterness that seemed to him the justest senti- 
ment his life had ever entertained. Afterwards, in the 
course of years, his natural tolerance and inveterate 
trick of looking at both sides of a question made them- 
selves felt once more ; but he never saw, he never de- 
sired to see Richard Craven again. Craven himself, 
after the great and closing catastrophe at Baden, gave 
up everything for the time. He felt, probably, how 
useless it would be to make any further effort then to 
influence or change his daughter's life, and soon after- 
wards he went back to Australia. When he returned 
to England Euphemia was already married. She re- 
ceived him, as Lidderdale had occasion to know, with 
extreme attention and kindness, and for a time he saw 
a good deal of her. But a memory of pain, it was easy 
to understand, forever rose up between them and 
seemed to thrust them apart. Craven presently re- 
turned to Australia, and, it was believed, made for 
himself new ties there. But though he wrote with 
some frequency to Euphemia, and once or twice to 
Lidderdale, little was known of his life. He died some 
ten years after Euphemia's marriage. 
Lidderdale, in the first hours that succeeded Helen's 

15 



226 AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 

ff 

death, tormented himself greatly in wondering wheth- 
er he conld have acted differently in that fatal crisis, 
and whetlier, in such case, the crisis could have been 
averted. But he was not a man given to self-torment; 
and in time he satisfied himself with some complete- 
ness that he could hardly have acted otherwise. He 
had done what he could. After a while it became 
harder for him than at first to believe that she* was 
dead. There were moments when he found it incred- 
ible that a being of an intelligence so keen and so 
varied, a spirit so insatiably athirst for ideals, so pas- 
sionately attached to the splendor and beauty of life, 
should have been absolutely quenched in an instant, 
should lie imprisoned in and mixed with the general 
earth. There are some people to whom that common 
lot seems to come gently and benignly as the best and 
fittest consummation ; but Helen, at least, should still 
be alive! To Lidderdale the blank brought by her 
loss was for a time immense; he could not have imag- 
ined it would be so great. In the critical attitude he 
had always chosen to maintain towards her he had 
not known for how much she counted in his exist- 
ence; but when the immediate shock and horror of 
her tragic end had passed away, he felt for a moment 
as if she had left that existence purposeless. That, 
naturally, was for a moment only; but it was long 
before he lost the penetrating sadness brought about 
by a catastrophe that for a time silenced criticism, and 
left him only the memory of a friendship and a ready 
sympathy that he, at least, had never appealed to in 
vain. However she might have sinned towards oth- 
ers, she had been perfect to him. If he had held all 



AN EXQUISITE FOOL. 227 

that too lightly at tlie time, he did not blame himself 
greatly, knowing that that is the way in which human 
nature works ; but he honored it afterwards with a 
tenderness that she herself had never been able to 
rouse in him. Recognizing that, he went near say- 
ing to himself sometimes that his attitude towards her 
had been brutal ; and if he replied that that mattered 
little, since her nature, he had always assured himself, 
was fundamentally egotistic and cold, there were mo- 
ments of illumination (but the thought was displeasing 
to him, and he constantly thrust it away) when he also 
recognized that he might have verified not only her 
coldness, but that power of passion with which he liad 
always accredited her. 

After fifteen years, such self -questionings and re- 
grets had naturally long since fallen into silence. The 
blank had filled itself up, as such blanks do; perhaps 
not thrice in three months did Lidderdale think of 
Helen. But to-night the sight of Euphemia and his 
speech with her had stirred old memories acutely. 
As he read and reread her letters, he seemed again to 
hear Helen's voice, to feel her presence, to acknowl- 
edge the influence of her rare and distinguished beau- 
ty. After all, what a woman she had been ! As he 
closed his bureau, he said to himself there were none 
such left in the world. 



THE END. 



•?• 



THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY H 

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